Brazil lawmakers pass massive social welfare bill

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Brazil lawmakers pass massive social welfare bill

BRASILIA, Nov 25, Reuters - Brazil's lower house approved a bill that would create a massive social welfare program known as Auxilio Brasil, replacing a previous program known as Bolsa Familia, which has been a mainstay of Brazilian social policy for nearly two decades.

The measure will now go to the Senate where leaders have promised to treat it as a priority.

Auxilio Brasil would double the size of cash welfare payments to poor families in Brazil, to 400 reais $71.90 monthly, and increase the number of families covered by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro's government says the measure is needed to help lower-income Brazilians whose livelihoods have been battered by the COVID 19 epidemic, while his opponents say the measure is a cynical ploy to increase his popularity heading into an October election, which polls predict he would lose.

Brazil's lower house approved a constitutional amendment that gives the government the ability to blow past its spending cap to fund the measure, which has spooked markets earlier in the month.

The bill of Auxilio Brasil was passed unanimously with 344 votes in favor.

Some sectors of the opposition expressed disappointment that Auxilio Brasil's benefits are not indexed to inflation, something that had been the subject of significant debate.

How can I not index this to inflation? How can I keep my payments up to date? Marcelo Freixo, a leftist lawmaker from Rio de Janeiro, asked.

In times of hunger, taking this out is insensitive and inhumane.