Millions in Brazil thrown back into poverty as pandemic aid dries up

Millions in Brazil thrown back into poverty as pandemic aid dries up
  • Clock-gray 17:39
  • calendar-gray 27 March 2021

Tatiana Araujo de Sirqueira, a 33-year old single mother of six, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are almost neighbors. But they inhabit different universes, APA reports citing Reuters.

Sirqueira lives by a landfill less than a mile from the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, along with 36 other families, and scrapes together cash by recycling trash.

She is one of Brazil’s 40 million or so “invisibles,” a term coined by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes for those without formal employment who had flown largely under the radar of Brazil’s government - and society.

“I live beside the president. I see him and his security pass by here every day,” she said on a hot, dusty afternoon outside her improvised shack. “How can he pass here every day and not see the families here?”

Last year, however, Sirqueira was not invisible. From April to December, she and some 66 million other Brazilians received the government’s most generous cash transfer program ever, emergency aid to help the most vulnerable through the pandemic.

That nearly $60 billion burst of basic income softened the economic blow of the coronavirus, boosted Bolsonaro’s popularity and beat back poverty — but its expiration at the end of 2020 is unraveling many of those effects.

Sirqueira now relies on the pre-existing ‘Bolsa Familia’ social benefit of up to 205 reais ($36) a month, about a third of last year’s emergency aid, missing out on a smaller second round of the cash transfer program that starts in April.

“They said I no longer met the criteria and so I can no longer be part of the program. My life has gotten much more difficult since, with six children to raise,” she said.

Millions of Brazilians like her were briefly lifted out of poverty only to be tossed back again. The national poverty rate dropped suddenly to 4.5% in August from almost 11% at the start of 2020, calculates the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

However, the Rio de Janeiro-based think tank estimates that 12.8% of Brazil’s population — some 27 million people — are now living below the poverty line of 246 reais a month, the most since the series began a decade ago.

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