The situation of social programs, including Bolsa Família and the social assistance network in the municipalities, is one of “calamity” and “dismantling”, said the members of the technical group for Social Development and Fight against Hunger of the transition team of the president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT).
The diagnosis, approved unanimously by the members of the group, points to the emptying of cistern policies, distribution of basic food baskets, reception of vulnerable people in reference centers, in addition to the lack of resources to maintain the minimum benefit of R$ 600 from the Aid Brazil —which will once again be called Bolsa Familia.
In blunt statements, Senator Simone Tebet (MDB-MS) and former ministers Tereza Campello and Márcia Lopes (both from Social Development and Fight Against Hunger) used words like “negligence”, “irresponsibility” and “bad faith” to describe the scenario encountered by the new government.
Tebet took the opportunity to signal that, given the situation, the values suggested for increasing spending on PECs (proposed amendments to the Constitution) alternatives to the Transition PEC are insufficient to deal with all the problems. One of the proposals, by Senator Tasso Jereissati (PSDB-CE), provides for an increase in expenses of R$ 80 billion.
“This amount is just what the ministry needs to minimally attend to social assistance programs”, said the senator, who treated as a “starting point” a total bill of R$ 140 billion.
According to her, in addition to the BRL 70 billion to guarantee the maintenance of the BRL 600 and the extra payment of BRL 150 per child up to 6 years old, the social development group sees the need for BRL 2 billion to continue with the expansion of the Gas Aid, R$ 2.6 billion to restore Suas (Unified Social Assistance System), in addition to other values for the purchase of cisterns and food baskets. Additional spending in this area alone is estimated at between R$78 billion and R$80 billion.
In a preliminary X-ray, the elected government pointed out the loss of conditions of control and effectiveness of Bolsa Família. One of the problems encountered was the explosion of registers of single-person families, composed of a single member, after the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government instituted a minimum amount to be paid per family. Previously, Bolsa Família paid amounts per person.
The number of single-person families rose from 1.8 million in December 2018 to 5.5 million in October 2022 — a growth of 197%, while the number of other families in the Cadastro Único rose 21% in the same period. Many of these families were motivated to split in order to receive a higher amount.
“The population was induced to register in this way. It is not a mistake by the poor person, it is a mistake by the State, a mistake by the Bolsonaro government”, said Tereza Campello. According to her, the transfer of income to the poorest has undergone eight profound changes in the last three years, which contributed to generate confusion among the beneficiaries.
“The bad design, in particular, established an unfair floor and induced these families to register separately”, stated the former minister.
The transition also identified that prior registration in the CadÚnico application itself has induced people to register individually to receive the benefit, which is considered a failure. There is also a lack of provision of information, since the assistance centers accumulate queues, and the telephone exchange is only able to answer 10% of the calls.
The technical group also accused the Bolsonaro government of “bad faith” for ignoring the explosion of single-person families and leaving the convening of an investigation until after the election. According to the Ministry of Citizenship itself, of the 3.2 million benefits to be reviewed, 2.5 million must be blocked – an indication that the current government itself sees the payments as undue.
Another problem, according to the diagnosis, is that the calendar was instituted without dialogue with the municipalities (who will be responsible for carrying out the home visits) and still concentrates the revisions in the months of January and February 2023 – when Lula will have already taken over the Presidency.
According to the schedule, only 8,900 benefits would be analyzed in December. In January, it would be 1.3 million, and in February, 1.84 million.
“We think that, in addition to incompetence, mismanagement and complete disregard for public policies, the government also acted in bad faith,” said Campello. “They are playing in the lap of the government that assumes, in the lap of municipalities that are already overloaded, the obligation to go after what they themselves produced.”
According to the former minister, the transition has already sought a renegotiation of the calendar with states and municipalities, in addition to a clarification campaign for beneficiary families to avoid taking them by surprise in this process. For her, the bases of the Single Registry are maintained, but there is a need to build a strategy to update the records in a maximum of two years, including to resume the monitoring of conditionalities, such as school attendance and vaccination.
The transition also identified a dismantling of the social assistance network. The money provided for maintaining the funding of these centers in 2023 is only enough for ten days, according to the group. “We will have a forecast of R$ 48 million for 5,570 municipalities”, said former minister Márcia Lopes.
The team also warned of the risk of a legal vacuum in cistern distribution policy. Current legislation expires on April 1, 2023 without being renewed by the current administration. “We propose a set of measures so that this does not happen and does not have discontinuity”, said Campello.
The government also runs the risk of running out of basic food baskets to meet emergency situations, such as homelessness. The current contract ends on January 5, 2023, and there is no possibility of amendments. Conab (Companhia Nacional de Abastecimento) does not have stocks or financial resources to be able to recompose this policy.
“We actually found a situation of absolute calamity and despair”, stated Márcia Lopes. “What happened with Cadastro Único and Auxílio Brasil is a total disregard and total public irresponsibility. Despite the rules, none of that was respected.”
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