Over the past three and a half years, the average benefit paid to supplement the incomes of poor and extremely poor families has increased from R$94 to R$167.
Brasilia, May 2, 2014. The average benefit paid by the Bolsa Família Program for poor and extremely poor families has increased in real terms by 44 % over the last three and a half years of the Rousseff administration. Data on the impact of the increase, announced by President Rousseff and published on Friday May 2 in Brazil´s Official Gazette, were presented by the Minister for Social Development and Fight Against Hunger, Tereza Campello, during a press conference at the Planalto Presidential Palace.
From June 1, the value defining the extreme poverty line in Brazil will be adjusted upwards by 10% – an increase from R$70 to R$77. The average value of the Bolsa Familia benefit for families living in extreme poverty therefore rises from R$216 to R$242, while the average payout for all beneficiaries of the Program will increase from R$150 to R$167. At present the Program benefits 14 million households totaling around 50 million people. Overall, 36 million people will continue to escape extreme poverty due to the transfer of income from the Bolsa Familia Program.
Tereza Campello commented that “this is the sixth time over the last three and a half years that the benefit has increased. The average amount paid to beneficiaries, calculated by adding up the total value of the Program and dividing it by the number of households, has risen from US$94 in early 2011 to R$167, which will be paid in June”.
The Minister emphasized that updating the benefits under the Program was “a perfectly normal procedure undertaken within our planned schedule”. She recalled that since 2011, adjustments to the Bolsa Familia payments had resulted in an increase of more than 40% in the average benefit. The changes had initially targeted families with younger children, but these were later extended to those with older children and adolescents. These income supplements were finally provided for those families unable to escape extreme poverty despite receiving the Bolsa Familia. According to Ms. Campello, “these are the the majority of the poorest households in Brazil and who now receive benefits greatly in excess of inflation”.
The Minister went on to say that “the Bolsa Familia has always been a priority of the governments of President Lula and President Dilma Rousseff. The benefits have been increased on a regular basis, helping families to improve their situation and with a major impact on reducing infant mortality, reducing malnutrition and ensuring that children attend school”. She also stressed the positive economic impact of the Program: “Every single “Real” applied by the Bolsa Familia Program returns R$1.78 to Brazil´s GDP, thereby benefiting the country´s economy”.
Ms. Campello said that raising the extreme poverty line, established in Brazil in June 2011, followed the purchasing power parity indicator used by the UN. “We used the same criteria established by the United Nations for the Millennium Development Goals: US$1.25 a day per person. We therefore set a threshold below which we do not accept that any Brazilian can survive”. The Minister also rejected criticism about the amounts involved as well as the method used for calculating the adjustments, saying “it is frivolous and irresponsible to think that Brazilian public policies, which are policies of the State established in law, can vary according to movements of the dollar”.
The variable benefit paid to pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and adolescents up to age 15 increases from R$32 to R$35, up to a limit of R$175 per month per family. Meanwhile, the variable benefit for adolescents up to age 17 increases from R$38 to R$42 a month, with an upper limit of R$84 per family.
According to Tereza Campello, in the current year the impact of the adjustment will be R$1.7 billion, an amount which has already been programmed into the Federal Government budget. For 2015, the increase in the value of Bolsa Familia benefits will call for an investment of R$2.7 billion.
The Minister added that updating the extreme poverty line and its impact on the variable benefits paid to families according to the number of children and adolescents, was within the planned expenditure authorized in the annual budget law. For 2014, this law authorizes spending of R$25.3 billion on the Bolsa Familia Program. Ms. Campello concluded by saying “We are in full agreement with the Finance and Planning Ministries, and with the President´s decision to award priority to the poor in this country and ensure that they continue to benefit best from Brazil´s public policies”.