(CNN) — Brazil’s government announced plans to speed up this month’s social assistance payments to the needy, as President Jair Bolsonaro prepares to face rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the runoff election.
Payments of R$600 (US$120) under the Auxilio Brasil program will be sent to more than 20 million families between October 11 and 25, as well as a gas bonus for more than 5.5 million Brazilian families.
The financial aid was originally scheduled to be disbursed next week, between October 18 and 31.
The Aid Brazil program debuted under President Jair Bolsonaro, and the right-wing leader has campaigned for a second term in part on a promise to continue paying the monthly benefit.
Bolsonaro will face Lula da Silva in a second round of elections to be held on October 30.
“Why wouldn’t we help the poor population due to the election period? We are emerging from a pandemic, from a time of war, from moments of energy and food insecurity,” Brazilian Citizenship Minister Ronaldo Bento said Thursday during a press conference on the date change.
“Those who are hungry cannot wait,” he added.
However, critics have speculated about possible political motivations, which was denied by Bento.
“It is clear that the acceleration of the payment of aid and the gasoline bonus has an electoral intention,” one person tweeted. Another asked if the country’s Superior Electoral Tribunal would consider this decision to be fair game.
According to the national pollster IPEC, 64% of those surveyed who earn the minimum wage or less, targeted beneficiaries of the Auxilio Brasil program, said they planned to vote for Lula on October 30.
29% of that cohort said they planned to vote for Bolsonaro, according to the same source.