One year of pandemic and we were unable to resolve elementary details of emergency aid – 12/04/2021 – Cecilia Machado

Last week, a new round of payment of emergency aid began, which was possible only after the approval of the PEC Emergency, last month, when the post-election political environment of the presidents of the Chamber and the Senate allowed the attention to turn to the agendas society’s urgent needs.

The Executive did not delay and, a few days after the promulgation of the PEC, edited the rules for the new round, whose estimated cost reaches R $ 43 billion, paid in four installments as of this month.

There was little doubt that some support network for workers and families that fell into a situation of food insecurity would also come this year, especially now, with the escalation of deaths, with delays in the vaccination schedule and with a job market that gives few signs of recovery.

But, if eventual failures in the implementation and execution of the aid could be justified by the urgency of the first months of the pandemic, it is difficult to understand why, after more than a year in a health crisis, we insist on an aid design that is far from meeting some precepts basic needs that assistance and temporary assistance must satisfy.

There are at least two objectives to be achieved in this context: first, a partial replacement of income guaranteeing the basic subsistence of families, and, second, an amount that is sufficient to keep families at home when the pandemic intensifies and intensifies. social distancing.

In this new round, the rules are in fact different, and the benefits, much less generous: R $ 150 for a family with a single person, R $ 250 for families with more than one person and R $ 375 for families where the mother is the only provider.

But, even though the new rule has come to consider a single benefit per family – which was not the case before – the new aid continues to perpetuate the mistake of not taking into account that families differ in their composition and number of members and, consequently , have different needs for subsistence, which is increasing in size.

Consider, for example, two families in which the mother is the sole provider and loses all of her income, but in one of them the family consists of a mother and a small child, while in the other the mother has four children. In both situations, the aid will be R $ 375, but in the first family there will be only two mouths to eat, while in the second it will be five.

Similarly, imagine that in one of the families above there is an aunt, who does not have paid work or receives any benefits. As a member of that family, she will receive nothing incrementally. However, she would receive R $ 150 if she lived alone.

In Brazil, only about 11 million families are sole proprietors, of which less than 2 million qualify for new aid by the income criterion. The specific rule for such a small group draws attention, compared to other families and people in situations of vulnerability.

It is inevitable to note that the design of the program generates incentives for each adult to declare that they are in a separate household, which further exacerbates the discrepancy between transfers that are made to families with and without children.

Finally, and not least, the rule that transfers more to single mothers vis-à-vis a family in which there is also the figure of a father is quite curious.

In general, cash transfers directed to single mothers serve a dual purpose: first, they seek to compensate for the existence of a child in the household, since mothers are, as a rule, responsible for the care of their children. And, second, they seek to compensate for the fact that women receive lower wages in the labor market and have less income-sustaining capacity.

It happens, however, that any informal work, be it men or women, is equally affected by social distancing policies. Thus, in families with children in which the father is present, the transfer is less (R $ 375 vs. R $ 250), although this father is equally impaired in his ability to work.

The design implicitly assumes that families in which the father is present have greater capacity to generate income, which is not necessarily true in the context of the pandemic. Worse, it makes the minimum income per capita under social distance by family composition unequal. It is to be expected that this discrepancy will also spread in the exposure to the virus due to the need to work.

One year of a pandemic and we have not yet been able to resolve elementary details of a temporary aid program. The difficulty of converging on a basic good sense for this program does not generate optimism regarding a larger agenda for reformulating and expanding the social protection network and for the establishment of a program for the insertion and qualification of workers affected by the crisis. There is a lot of work to be done.

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