March 11, 2020 / 9:14 PM / 25 days ago

Brazil's Congress overturns presidential veto on spending bill

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s Congress overturned a presidential veto on Wednesday in an ongoing battle over appropriations with President Jair Bolsonaro, doubling social assistance for elderly and disabled people that will cost an extra 20 billion reais (£3.2 billion) this year.

The defeat added to the fiscal woes of a government that is trying to rein in spending to meet budget targets and has very little room for discretionary spending to boost a slow economy.

The so-called BPC program grants the elderly over 65 years of age and disabled people who cannot take care of themselves a minimum monthly wage, equal to 1,045 reais ($217), each month. The bill also raised the income level of those eligible from 261.25 reais to 522.50 reais, or half a minimum wage.

In a year of local elections, lawmakers are worried about voter rejection over austerity measures and overturned Bolsonaro’s veto by 303 votes against 137.

Government officials fear the veto upset will make it hard for it to comply with a spending ceiling fixed by law.

The Speaker of the lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Maia, said overturning the veto was a mistake because it will add to financial instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It will also deprive the government of funds it may need to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil, Maia said.

Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Sonya Hepinstall

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