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PR- 201-07
June 18, 2007


Families, Adults, and Children to Receive Incentives Around Health, Education and Adult Workforce Development

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs today released details of the incentives for Opportunity NYC, the city's innovative conditional cash transfer program aimed at helping New Yorkers break the cycle of poverty. Based upon successful models of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs around the world, Opportunity NYC is a key initiative of Mayor Bloomberg's Center for Economic Opportunity, which was established to implement his second-term agenda to reduce poverty and increase economic opportunity in New York City.  Today's announcement outlines the specific program details and incentives for accomplishing the goals of the conditional cash transfer program. This privately funded pilot initiative is designed to measure and evaluate the impact of incentive-based strategies on poverty reduction. Opportunity NYC, the nation's first conditional cash transfer program, consists of three separate pilot programs all aimed at improving the education, health and workforce outcomes for children, adults, and families living in poverty. 

"For all of us the stress of our daily lives can cause us to make decisions that aren't always in our best interests. Living in poverty makes it even more difficult and can lead to missing a doctor's visit, for example," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "Struggling families are so focused on surviving, that it is often difficult for them to plan for the future. We are serious about tackling poverty in New York City, and are committed to finding innovative ways of doing so. The Opportunity NYC program gives New Yorkers in poverty a financial incentive to look ahead and to make decisions that will improve their prospects for the future."

"Opportunity NYC helps to alleviate some of the financial implications that families face when deciding, for example, to take their child to a doctor even if it means being docked a day's pay," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Linda Gibbs. "The financial incentives are tied to conditions we know are related to the perpetuation of poverty in our communities, and aim to disrupt the repetition of those patterns into the next generation."

Family-Focused Pilot Program

The family-focused pilot program, first announced in March, offers financial incentives to families in three key areas correlated with poverty:  children's education, family health, and adults' workforce skills and job training.  The education incentives will promote school attendance, parental engagement, achievement, and improved performance on standardized tests. Health incentives will be offered for maintaining adequate health coverage for all children and adults in participant households as well as age-appropriate medical and dental visits for each family member; while employment and training incentives will promote increased employment and earnings, or combine work activities with job training and education.  Families will report their completion of incentivized activities and receive their earned cash transfers every two months.   Enrollment for this pilot begins the last week in June; anticipated start date is September 2007.

As part of the education component, families can earn $25 or $50 per month for 95 percent school attendance for elementary, middle, and high school students; $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences; and $50 for obtaining a library card.  An improvement in scores or proficiency on standardized tests at the elementary and middle school levels can earn a family from $300 or $350 per test; while at the high school level, a student can earn $600 for each passing grade on individual Regents exams.  Incentives of $25 will be earned for both parental review of the test and discussion with teachers; high school students can earn $50 for taking the PSAT exam, and will share $600 with their parents for annually accumulating 11 credits, and a $400 bonus for graduating.

In the health incentive portion of the program, families can earn $20 or $50 per adult per month for maintaining health insurance and $20 or $50 for maintaining health insurance for all the children in the family; from $100 to $200 per family member for preventive health screenings, and $100 per member for preventive dental care.

The workforce component will allow adults to earn $150 a month for maintaining full-time employment, and from $200 to $400 for completing job training or educational courses, to a maximum of $3,000 while employed.

The family-focused pilot program will be implemented in Central and East Harlem in Manhattan, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Morris Heights/Mount Hope and East Tremont/Belmont in the Bronx-six communities that are among New York City's poorest. It will serve 2,550 families in these selected communities with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $22,000 for a family of three), and who have at least one child in public school in a critical transition year (fourth, seventh, or ninth grade). Once a family is enrolled, all school-age children in the home are eligible for the education- and health-focused incentive payments, regardless of grade level.

Adult-Focused Pilot Program

The adult-focused pilot program uses subsidized housing as a platform for increasing self-sufficiency by offering monetary incentives to adult Section 8 voucher holders for maintaining full time employment and completing job training and education programs. This pilot will serve 2,400 adult Section 8 voucher holders from all five boroughs that are eligible for the Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS).  FSS is a federally funded asset-building program designed to promote economic advancement for low-income families receiving housing subsidies. The Opportunity NYC adult-focused pilot will test the effectiveness of workforce-related CCT strategies alone, compared to the FSS program, and compared to a third group receiving a combination of the workforce-related CCT strategies and the FSS. As with the family-focused pilot program, participants will report their completion of incentivized activities and receive their earned cash transfers every two months.  Anyone receiving assistance through a Section 8 voucher is eligible for this program; enrollment begins in August with an anticipated start date of late December.

Child-Focused Pilot Program

The child-focused pilot program will provide small monetary incentives to fourth and seventh grade students throughout the city for effort and performance on standardized tests taken during the academic year.  A total of 20 fourth grade and 20 seventh grade schools-approximately 9,000 students-will participate in this segment of the program, which will test the effectiveness of small monetary incentives in reducing the educational achievement gap.  For the child-focused education pilot, students in the fourth grade will receive up to $25 for a perfect score on each of 10 interim assessment tests taken throughout the year, up to a total of $250. Seventh graders can earn up to $50 per test for a maximum payment of $500 per year.  Each is based on a scaled incentive.  Schools can currently volunteer to participate and children attending the selected schools will be enrolled in September.

The three pilot programs will all be enrolling participants this summer. Seedco, a national non-profit intermediary that focuses on creating opportunities for low-wage workers and their families, will lead the operation of the family and adult-focused pilot programs.

Each pilot will be evaluated using a random assignment design to assess the impact of these incentives on families, adults, and children, as well as its effect on overall poverty reduction.  MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, will evaluate both the family and adult components; while the Department of Education, together with Harvard Professor Dr. Roland Fryer, will administer the child-focused pilot, with Dr. Fryer conducting the assessment.

The incentives for each program were developed in coordination with City agencies, including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Education, Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Small Business Services, the New York City Housing Authority; Human Resources Administration, as well as with the support of international, national and local experts and community leaders in each of the programs' areas of concentration.

Opportunity NYC is privately funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation, The Robin Hood Foundation, The Open Society Institute, the American International Group (AIG), the Broad Foundation, as well as Mayor Bloomberg. The Rockefeller Foundation provided the initial research and development capital for this effort.

Center for Economic Opportunity

The Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) was established by Mayor Bloomberg to implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City.  Led by Executive Director, Veronica White, the CEO works with City agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives aimed at poverty reduction. The CEO manages an Innovation Fund through which it provides City agencies annual funding to implement such initiatives and will oversee a rigorous evaluation of each to determine which are successful in demonstrating results towards reducing poverty and increasing self-sufficiency among New Yorkers.  The CEO is also charged with oversight of Opportunity NYC, including its design, management and implementation.

See attached incentives schedule for more detail.


Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

More Resources
See incentives schedule (in pdf)