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Families Could Be “Rewarded” By Winter Holidays

September 22, 2011

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. announced yesterday that recruitment had begun for the city’s new Family Rewards conditional cash transfer program.

Under the program, which is a partnership between the city, the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, Seedco, and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, low-income families can get cash incentives for achieving milestones such as perfect attendance at school or passing the GED.

“When we say we are a City of Choice, we mean a City of Choice for everybody,” said Mayor Wharton. “One in four Memphians live below the poverty line … one in five families live on less than $20,000 a year. There’s no way in the world we can deem those numbers acceptable.”

The program focuses on achievements in three areas — health, education, and employment — and participating families will be eligible to receive as much as $2,000 to $3,000 for completing a range of activities.

Family Rewards is one of five programs being replicated in cities across the country by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City with the support of the federal Social Innovation Fund, a new public-private partnership designed to expand effective anti-poverty programs.

“In New York, we’ve learned what works to help low-income residents in our city,” said Allegra Blackburn-Dwyer with the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity. “To enact real change, we need to know if what works well in our city will work in Memphis, San Antonio, Cleveland, and across the country.”

Family Rewards in Memphis is a $11.53 million initiative with support from the Social Innovation Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Open Society Foundations, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The City of Memphis has pledged $1.9 million, and the Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis will lead the effort to raise the remaining balance.

Recruitment and sign-up of pre-selected families began this week; families could begin to expect receiving awards by the winter holidays.

“Some say ‘you’re crazy; you won’t end poverty.’ We know we won’t end poverty if we never start,” said Mayor Wharton. “We think it’s imperative that we use every possible method to end poverty.”


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