The Board of Supervisors voted this week to pay $400 rewards to kids from CalWORKS families who graduate from high school.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended the pilot program, which will offer another $100 to those graduates who complete a financial literacy course.

Graduating from high school is essential to “break the cycle of dependency and generational poverty and ensure children in the county’s CalWORKS caseload have better opportunities,” Ridley-Thomas said in his motion.

The Department of Public Social Services estimates that there are 16,000 students ages 16-18 whose families receive financial assistance under CalWORKS. About 6,000 of them are expected to qualify for the pilot program by graduating this year.

Supervisor Hilda Solis suggested that in the future, money should be doled out to younger students as an incentive encouraging them not to drop out.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion, agreed that the payment wasn’t an incentive to kids already on track to graduate in the next few weeks, but said word would quickly reach high school juniors and sophomores.

“We are rewarding them for having graduated. And that story is going to immediately trickle down,” Kuehl said.

The county’s social services director said the reward—expected to cost up to $3 million in total this year—could save the county money in the long run.

“If they don’t graduate high school … (they) go on to our general welfare program,” DPSS Director Sheryl Spiller said of the teens.

Nearly half of the parents getting CalWORKS support do not have a high school diploma or General Education Diploma.

The board’s vote was unanimous.