Mayor to pay poor Bronx families to do the right thing

BELMONT - Bronx families will pocket extra cash for students' good grades and going to the doctor under a plan announced Monday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg says his Opportunity NYC, funded with private money, is the first of its kind in the United States. The pilot program is aimed at breaking the poverty cycle and increasing economic growth in the city.

Under the plan, 95 percent attendance would be rewarded with up to $50 and seventh-graders who make the grade would help their families earn up to $500 a year. Opportunity NYC also provides other financial rewards for educational achievement.A highlight of the health program includes family members earning up to $200 for preventative health screenings.

Adults would also earn $150 monthly for being consistently employed.

Eligible residents must be at or below the poverty line and have at least one child enrolled in public school in grades four through nine. The adult-focused version of the program offers incentives to Section 8 recipients.

The mayor says 14,000 New Yorkers will be chosen for the program, which starts in September; enrollment begins in the last week of June. In the Bronx, residents living in the poorer neighborhoods of Belmont, East Tremont, Morris Heights and Mount Hope are eligible.

While some are praising the mayor for taking a cue from a similar program in Mexico, others are not convinced. "It's encouraging kids to cheat. They'll want to do well so they'll cheat," a resident said. Critics also complain people shouldn't have to be bribed to better their lives.

Bloomberg says he will monitor the two-year program and decide whether to expand it or end it.

AP wire reports contributed to this story.

Related information:City of New York: Opportunity NYC press release

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