The Bolsa Família Program is a program of direct transfer of income that benefits households in poverty and extreme poverty in Brazil. Bolsa Familia integrates the Brazil Without Poverty Plan which focuses on Brazilian households where each family members income is below BRL 77 per month. In this article, we will take a closer look at Bolsa Família and how it works.
Bolsa Família Benefits
The Bolsa Família Program grants monthly aid to households that are in an extreme poverty situation - with a maximum household member income of BRL 77 - and households in a poverty situation with an income between BRL 77 and BRL 154 per household member. The Bolsa Família Program offers four different types of benefits:
- Variável para Jovem
- Superação da Extrema Pobreza
Households classified as a poverty situation can amass the benefits of the Bolsa Família Básico, the Bolsa Família Variável and the Bolsa Família Variável para Jovem with a maximum of BRL 336 per household, but this number can be surpassed if the household is in an extreme poverty situation. In these cases, the household may receive the Bolsa Família para Superação da Extrema Pobreza. This is a means tested aid designed to guarantee that each household has no less than BRL 77 in financial resources per household member. A household of 20 members can receive a maximum aid of BRL 1.540 if they have no other income.
Bolsa Família Básico
The Bolsa Família Básico is granted to households in a situation classified to be either in extreme poverty or poverty. This grants aid of BRL 77 per month, independently of the composition of the household.
Bolsa Família Variável
The Bolsa Família Variável is granted to households who have one or more children younger than 15 years old, or with pregnant or lactating women. The aid is BRL 35 per month, per qualified member of the household and limited to no more than 5 qualified members per household.
Bolsa Família Variável para Jovem
The Bolsa Família Variável para Jovem is granted to households who have children between 16 and 18 years old. The aid is BRL 42 per month, per qualified member of the household and is limited to no more than 2 qualified members per household.
Bolsa Família para Superação da Extrema Pobreza
The Bolsa Família para Superação da Extrema Pobreza is exclusive to households in a situation classified as extreme poverty. Each household is granted a means tested aid. It is calculated upon each household members income and upon the benefits already granted to that household thanks to the Bolsa Família program.
How to qualify for the Bolsa Família program
To qualify for the Bolsa Família benefits, a representative of the household needs to register its household with the Cadastro Único para Programas Sociais do Governo Federal or simply CadÚnico, which stands for Single Registry for Social Programs of the Federal Government. The most common procedure for registration with the CadÚnico is a home visit by a social worker from the municipality who will observe the economic conditions of the household. Some cities only offer service stations, in these cases, the local government is required to inform its population about dates, places and periods of service as well as all the documents necessary for registration.
To register with the CadÚnico, the household has to present an Identification Document for each family member or at least for the person responsible for the household who needs to present either their CPF or their Voter Registration Card.
Selection by the Ministry of Social Development of households applying to receive the Bolsa Família program benefits is made upon registration on the CadÚnico database. It is up to each municipality to register, submit, maintain and update the database, as well as monitor the conditions of the benefit and articulate and promote complementary actions seeking to develop poor households into normalized households that no longer require financial aid.
There is no deadline set by the government from the moment a family enters the Bolsa Família program until the moment it starts receiving aid. To start receiving the benefit, the family must wait for the system to analyze the information from the CadÚnico to check the data about the family and check if the municipality has not yet reached its maximum number of aided families.
Who receives the aid first is decided by the system based on income per household member and not according to the order in which the families registered.
In order to receive the benefits of the Bolsa Família program, the government requires that children between 6 and 15 years old have passed at least 85% of the school year. As for adolescents between 16 and 18 years old, this number drops to 75%. According to the government, more than 96% of the children from households benefiting from the program were compliant to the government’s requirements.
Households receiving the Bolsa Família benefit are required to follow a vaccination schedule and maintain a vaccination card as well as monitor the growth and development of children under the age of 7 years. Women between 14 and 44 years old are also required to regularly monitor their health. When a woman is pregnant or lactating, prenatal testing as well as regular monitoring of the health of the mother and baby is required.
In terms of social care, children up to 15 years old that are at risk or withdrawn from child labor should participate in programs to reintegrate themselves back into society and get a minimum frequency of 85% in the program’s meetings.
It is up to the government to supervise and identify the reasons for non-compliance with the obligations set for those receiving the Bolsa Família benefits. Follow-up actions are then implemented in households that are not compliant with the obligations set. A household that has trouble meeting the obligations is advised to seek support from the Center for Social Assistance. If the household does not take any of these actions, there is a risk of having the benefit blocked, suspended or even cancelled.
The Ministry of Social Development invested around BRL 24.5 billion into the Bolsa Família program in 2013, providing aid to more than 14 million households or around 50 million people. The average aid per household is BRL 152.35 as of September 2013. Among the people responsible for receiving the benefit for their households 93% are women. Of the total amount of people receiving the Bolsa Família benefits 56% are women and 44% are men. The Bolsa Família distribution according to each Brazilian regions is as follows:
- Northeast: 53% of households receiving Bolsa Família
- Southeast: 17% of households receiving Bolsa Família
- North: 15% of households receiving Bolsa Família
- South: 8% of households receiving Bolsa Família
- Central-West: 6% of households receiving Bolsa Família
Since the program started in 2003 1.7 million households successfully left the program with an income that exceeded the limits for someone to be considered in poverty. Only 522,000 of the households that received the benefit 2003 are still receiving it.