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Need to Know, December 14, 2012: Memphis family rewards

In the next edition of “Your Money and Your Life,” Need to Know travels to Memphis, Tennessee to cover the Family Rewards Program – an initiative that aims to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by offering cash incentives.

The program rewards low-income families with cash payments for good attendance, good grades, steady employment, and going to the doctor and dentist. The goal is to increase self-sufficiency, create healthy habits and promote savings. Critics ask, why pay families for what they should be doing anyway, and what happens once the money runs out?

The report, which includes an interview with Memphis Mayor A C. Wharton, is followed by an interview with New York Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. The broadcast ends with an essay by Memphis-born playwright Katori Hall  (“The Mountaintop”) on breaking down assumptions about poverty.

What’s on this week:

Earning Potential

Stacey Tisdale travels to Memphis to examine if the city’s experimental “Family Rewards” program, which offers cash incentives to motivate high school students and their families, is helping to combat poverty.

Interview: Linda Gibbs

Anchor Ray Suarez interviews Linda Gibbs, Deputy Mayor in New York, where Michael Bloomberg is a major backer of the “Family Rewards” program. Gibbs talks about how changing behavior may help lift young people out of poverty.

American Voices

Playwright Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” a musing on Martin Luther King’s last night, played on Broadway. Her play “Hurt Village” takes place in a contemporary Memphis housing project. In this  essay, she addresses breaking down assumptions about poverty.

NewsHour: Mexico’s Oportunidades program

Ray Suarez reports on the Mexican incentive program that served as a model for the Family Rewards programs in New York and Memphis. Participants must first sign a contract to raise healthier, better-educated children.

Martin Luther King Jr., and Memphis

Playwright Katori Hall reflects on the importance of King to the city of Memphis. It was the city where he gave his last speech “I Have Been to the Mountaintop,” in support of striking workers and calling again for a War on Poverty.

A teen in Memphis: The Commercial Appeal reports

Memphis native Chris Dean came into the public eye when in 2011 as an 18-year-old senior at Booker T. Washington High School he introduction of special guest President Obama. Memphis Commercial Appeal editor Chris Peck was interested in Dean’s life before and after Obama’s visit.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.

  • thumb
    Main Street: Findlay, Ohio
    Need to Know travels to Ohio to assess how workers are faring after the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 35 years.
  • thumb
    Following the money: Tax breaks
    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
  • thumb
      Certifiably employable
    Rick Karr recently visited Seattle to look at a program designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to find jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.


  • Hank

    Unfortunately your photographer screwed up when he panned across the $65,000 BMW in the driveway of the lady with the $100 hairdo and $50 nails who was supposed to be making $800/mo. HFD

  • ericka

    in paying poor people to go to school and go to doctors is really bad, it must be a cultural thing (what happen to pride?) what happened to all that to talk of black pride?

  • Tinabean

    Is there a way to donate to the mother daughter family featured in the earning potential segment? or give to the Memphis program?

  • mst900

    How does Hank know how much her nails and hair cost? there are plenty of people in poor areas who do that sort of thing for very little. As was pointed out, billions are spent on rich whites as incentives. the Iraq war cost us billions as private security firms were paid 100,000s daily and ultimately earned multi- millions and billions, yet you keep silent because black people have always been presented as an easy target. 17 million suburbanites who own homes get medicaid. The earned child care credit, property tax deduction, mortgage interest deduction, college grants and loans are all entitlements primarily enjoyed by the white middle class. Social Security requires you to live till 65-a mark many black people fail to hit, thus while they pay into the program , they will not reap the benefit.
    Interesting that all these mass murders, school shootings, drug labs, and others are white males. The drug war is fought almost exclusively in poor black communities despite the fact that whites use and deal more. Yet the words-white males- are never used, and there is a tendency to not show their faces. This keeps us from identifying the perps with their race. Black faces are flashed repeatedly. We never see programs that say “White and Drugs”, Whites and Alcohol Abuse”, Whites are the reason you cannot buy cold medicine-pseudafed without going through the 4th degree.” Yet you see a proliferation of programs that say- Blacks and this , Blacks and that. Then they always use some black person to confront or denigrate other black people to give it credibiity-usually it is a light -complexioned person. You never hear the words hard-working and black in the same sentence even though black and Hispanics do the lowest and hardest work with the lowest pay-taking care of sick, children. cleaning, security, and so on. Many whites are on welfare and social programs and have many of the same or worse issues, yet the program some how manages to put a sympathetic, understanding and exculpatory tone to the show, We hear immediately of reasons why they do what they do.I am so tired of this black -bashing that is driven by the powerful in Hollywood ironically by those who were themselves exploited, and we hear about it ad nauseam. We are bombarded with the white standard of beauty, and the myths of white superiority , which has recently been exposed as lies with the downfall of this economy and the credit mess. It would be nice if TV showed the technical advances, inventions, literature, finances, scientific contributions and more made by African-Americans despite the huge obstacles set in front of them. Hollywood is so terrified of putting forth black heroes outside of a limited sports arena because to give black children the same pride and belief in self that whites have from birth would even the playing field somewhat. The brain-washing, subliminal messages, legacy admissions, historical advantages, racist stereotypes, control of finances, and discrimination for loans, all contribute to the obstacles faced by people of color. Instead of working to eliminate these, certain individuals continue to push the color button and most importantly use financial means(low pay, denial of business loans, inequitable access, environmental racism) to maintain the status quo. Incredibly, middle and low class whites are being systematically subjected to the same forces and they seem incapable of seeing the writing on the wall, choosing instead to fall back on the comfort past racist mentalties provide.

  • getwellgarden

    Memphis in run by the old boy network, whose primary duty is to keep the africain american population down in memphis tn. the current mayor is soft, picked by shelby county tn. Memphis is an Oppressed city that tell the world , come see the Blues, Elvis house and eat barbecue. All the things that Black people created but don’t run because of the hidden discrimitory practices of the good old South.I wish the government could get rid of the politician and elect new ones. You see how they took over Beale street. Go back to Overton Square, the not so know hot spot on their side of town.

  • EVR

    Her BMW was 12 years old purchased long before she lost the job which paid a living income. You obviously have selective hearing to reinforce your prejudice bigotry.

  • EVR

    Your comment reflects typical racist white resentful stereotype reply of people who never left the bubble of environmental culture into which you were born. Your closed mindedness to programs designed to uplift society as a whole is a sad reality of the national bias that divides our nation. Outside of your comfort zone exists an America of people born into a world with two strikes against them from birth and circumstance you obviously never bothered to discover. It is everywhere. But there are none so blind as those who (by choice) will not see! Open your mind. It is like a parachute and only works when opened. Best wishes for enlightenment that somewhere in your journey through life you will learn to recognize that which you now refuse to consider. A rising tide lifts all boats. There is a great difference in a hand up and a hand out! A hand up
    is a Godly act of brotherhood for all mankind of all faiths for any person of
    any race. A hand out is an act of philanthropy from which any society benefits
    and is manna from heaven for the soul

  • getwellgarden

    I left memphis tn. At the ago of thirteen, I had to be exposed to white people get off elevators when I got on. I thought I smelled or It was the way I dressed. It was neither the only reason is the superiority complex the a lot of southern whites have. And that why blacks in Memphis, Tn are so economically behind. So I got out of Memphis Tn and advise eveervyone to do so

  • Anonymous

    So what happened to ” no child left behind ” ? ? What a disaster that was! ! And why would you think this program will change anything ! ! Grow up! ! !

  • steinbeck11

    I sorry, I can’t support this. It is kind of putting the cart before the horse. If they want the public aid, they must do what this program is paying extra for.

  • Robert Baillie

    I had an open mind at the beginning of this program. At the end of the program, I thought, “If it works, don’t knock it.”

    The good behaviors that this program pays for will benefit both the individual and society for many years to come.

  • Frustrated in Baltimore

    Are you kidding me…?! The family highlighted in this story, and who are receiving “doing the right things” subsidies, is openly depicted with a BMW sedan in the driveway…!
    I don’t own a luxury car, but I found my way to the dentist for a checkup last week. Where is my handout…?
    By the way, I paid for the dentist, myself…
    No wonder local, state, and federal governments all show deficits…

  • The Truth

    HANK IS RIGHT… The “Welfare State” is here and is used as a cushion for people who can’t take responsibility for their own lives. The US is not Capitalist, but now Socialist. Marx and Lenin had thei way, quietly, after all.

  • Peach89

    Wow how stupid can you really be? Being poor doesn’t mean you have to have self pitty and for your information miss racist people of all racist fall short just as you fall short on reasons not to stereotype.They can be proud to be african american while still improving themselves.