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Brazil: the National Senate approves Emergency Basic Income

Homeless people in San Francisco, during the corona virus crisis days. Picture credit to: Aljazeera

On February 26th, 2020, the first case of Covid – 19 was registered in Brazil. Like in so many other countries, the coronavirus epidemic spread quickly in Brazil. On Sunday, April 5th 2020, 11130 people are infected (with a total population of 209 million) and 486 deaths have occurred in the country. In the past three weeks, the Brazilian authorities have recommended people to stay at home, avoid agglomerations and to go out of their homes only for emergencies. Commerce has closed. As in other countries, only pharmacies, supermarkets, take away services at restaurants, gas stations and a few others essential services have remained functional. Many people cannot work and have been unable to earn enough for their survival.

Brazil was the first nation in the world in which the Federal Congress, with the approval of all political parties, approved the Law 10.835/2004, that institutes a Citizen’s Basic Income to all its inhabitants, including for foreigners living in Brazil for five or more years. Although never implemented as an unconditional program in Brazil, it gave rise to the means tested Bolsa Família program, which covers 14.3 million families today, or around 47 million inhabitants, almost ¼ of the Brazilian population.

Given these latest developments on the corona virus crisis, many civil associations like the Rede Brasileira da Renda Básica, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem Teto, Movimento Nacional da População em Situação de Rua, União dos Movimentos de Moradia, UNEAFRO Brasil (among many others), as well as many economists, philosophers, social scientists and people of different walks of life, from Brazil and elsewhere, have claimed for the urgent need to implement a basic income in the country. To that purpose, in March 19th 2020, all Brazilian State Governors signed a letter to the Federal Government “to mitigate the effects of the crisis over the poorest part of population, especially with respect to employment and informality, and to evaluate the application of Law 10.835/2004 which institutes a Citizen’s Basic Income, so as to provide resources to protect this economically vulnerable population”.

Last week, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies and the National Senate approved a Law, sanctioned by President Jair Bolsonaro on April 2nd 2020, that institutes an Emergency Benefit or an Emergency Basic Income unconditionally (not dependent on how it is spent by beneficiaries) providing R$600 (US$113) per month to all adults with more than 18 years old. That is to be given to a maximum of two in each family, reaching R$1200 for each family, covering all people who belong to families with aggregate income up to three minimum wages (R$3135) per month, or half the minimum wage (R$522) per capita per month. For a monoparental family, the father or the mother will receive R$1200 per month. If an adolescent of less than 18 years of age has a child, she (or he) will also receive the benefit (of R$1200). This stipend will be valid for three months, which might be prolongued for a longer period, depending on the continuation of the pandemic economic crisis.

In Brazil, around 75 million people are registered under Cadastro Único as earning less than three minimum wages. An estimated 15 to 20 million more have still to register, and can now do that through an applicative via internet. Public Banks such as the Caixa Econômica Federal, Banco do Brasil, Banco do Nordeste do Brasil, Lottery Houses and private banks will cooperate in providing this Emergency Benefit or Emergency Basic Income.

The payment of the R$600 reaching more than 70 million people, one third of the Brazilian population, for three or six months might imply an increase in demand for goods and services which can stimulate the production of a greater supply of high priority goods and services, with positive effects in raising employment opportunities.

More information at:

Congress approves basic income due to coronavirus crisis while Planalto fights for protagonism“, Time24News, March 31st 2020

This article was based on a letter written by Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy (Co-President of Honor of the Basic Income Earth Network and President of Honor of the Rede Brasileira da Renda Básica)

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 365 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • A basic income should be provided now to anyone who loses income due to COVID-19, but I suggest that after the pandemic, the basic income becomes permanent.

    However, people with jobs should not be taxed to pay for people without jobs.

    Rather than raising economy-damaging taxes on jobs, businesses or
    sales, the basic income should be financed by economic rent capture.

    Economic rent is unearned revenue that accrues to land and resources.
    It is income from the rental of the commons, the Earth. Every Canadian
    has a right to their share of this wealth, which makes it a perfect
    way to finance a basic income.

    Unless funded by economic rent capture, basic income programs will be
    self-defeating, they will become a subsidy to landlords who will raise
    rents to match the rise in incomes of the working poor. (Importantly,
    land value taxes cannot be passed on to tenants.)

    As a bonus, economic rent capture is beneficial to the economy as it
    removes incentives for speculation and leaves capital no alternative
    but to invest in the job-rich productive economy.

    Frank de Jong, 705-388-1903
    Henry George Foundation of Canada
    26 Fairy Avenue
    Huntsville, ON P1H 1G7

    • gespil

      Frank de Jong,
      You are on the right track by suggesting UBI to be based on taxing Wealth but you are limiting your thinking to only certain types of Wealth.

      Wealth is anything which is perceived as Valuable by an individual or the consensus among individuals in regards to the perceived Value.
      (examples of Wealth include owning a business, stock, intellectual rights, land, resources, enterprises, legal tender of any kind, control of decisions, etc) basically anything which is perceived as Valuable by an individual or the consensus among individuals in regards to the perceived Value.

      Printing money to pay for UBI is inflation.
      Money should NOT only be a medium to facilitate transactions because someone will end up with all the real Wealth while everybody else will only have money.

      That is why Money must be equivalent to Wealth by law! (meaning, Whoever has all the real Wealth should not have any money and can not refuse to exchange wealth for money)

      The Covid-19 stopped the transactions , which means The Yang’s Fake UBI would have been exposed as Fake.
      Any UBI based on taxing transactions like ‘consumption (VAT) or income’ is a FAKE UBI.
      The real UBI is based on taxing the accumulated Wealth.
      We need the REAL UBI.
      Yang’s UBI is Fake.

      The real UBI is based on taxing the accumulated Wealth.
      Any UBI based on taxing transactions of Wealth is a FAKE UBI.

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