Making the most of family incentives

July 9, 2008 12:51:52 PM PDT
It has been a year since Mayor Bloomberg launched his financial incentives program for low income families, literally paying parents for things like making sure their kids attend school and go to the doctor. And for the Bennett family, the city's family incentives program has paid off.

"It's not until you actually see it that you're like, 'Wow, this program really is working,'" parent Vylmary Bennett said. "They really mean what they say."

The Bennetts have earned more than $5,000 since last fall. The largest payment was for just more than $3,000. Under the Opportunity NYC program, the family gets cash when children show superior school attendance and achievement, when parents go to parent-teacher conferences and when family members make routine visits to doctors and dentists.

"The majority of parents do it anyway, you understand?," parent Eustace Bennet said. "But with the extra incentive it even pushes you to do it that much more."

Eyewitness News first reported on the Bennetts last December. They set up their own incentive: $25 to $1, among their five children, who earned the best grades in school. Seven-year-old Hillary won, with all A's.

Their parents say all the kids worked harder.

"I did better than most of my school years," Elijah Bennett said. "I still had a couple of problems here and there, but, like, I learned more."

The extra money has also paved the way for a very important family project.

Currently a work in progress, it will soon be the Bennett family's barber shop. Eustace Bennett is a barber by trade, and the incentive program has helped put the family on the road to realizing a longtime family dream.

"Whether it's work, school or whatever, it pays off," Eustace said. "The hard work that you put in comes back."

The family's participation in the program continues for two years. The Bennetts hope to earn thousands more.

For more information on the family rewards program, visit


STORY BY: Education reporter Art McFarland