RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Brazilian government announced that it has extended its social assistance program to an additional 1.3 million families to alleviate the effects of the economic slowdown among the country's poorest citizens.
The government raised the maximum income threshold for the families that can request the subsidy to 137 reais ($60) per person, the Social Development Ministry announced.
Officials took into account the inflation rate and several studies that verified the need to broaden the number of families included in the social protection net, "principally at the time of the crisis," according to the ministerial communique.
The adjustment was the decision of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after consultations with Social Development Minister Patrus Ananias, Planning Minister Paulo Bernardo and Finance Minister Guido Mantega.
Expansion of benefits will be effected in a gradual manner to expand the number of families aided from 11 million to 12.3 million by October 2009.
The impact of the measure in the 2009 budget will be 549 million reais ($241 million), which means that the government will distribute around 11.9 reais ($5.23 billion) annually under the program.
The "Bolsa Familia" (Family Pocketbook) program establishes subsidies of between $27 and $80 a month and additional variable quotas of $8.80 which are paid for up to the third child under 15 who is still in school.
For each child 16-17 years of age who continues to be enrolled in school, the government contributes an extra $13 per month.
"Bolsa Familia" combined a series of subsidies for the poor established during the 1995-2002 government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso with the new ones created by Lula in 2003, when he first took office with the commitment to end hunger in Brazil. EFE