Next week, 257 at-risk children in Jefferson County – and thousands more around the country – will continue to attend Head Start, thanks to a generous donation made available to the National Head Start Association (NHSA). Philanthropists Laura and John Arnold of Houston extended up to $10 million in emergency funding to provide assistance to Head Start programs that were forced to close or facing closure due to the government shutdown. Money for Head Start in fiscal year 2014 has not yet been appropriated due to the stalemate in Washington, leaving some programs with no access to federal funds.
Community Action Planning Council was preparing to close the local Head Start program after October 11, provided lawmakers had not enacted an appropriation. When Head Start doors close, the affects are devastating to low-income families. Parents often miss work or school as they scramble to find alternative child care. They rely on Head Start to provide nutritious meals, medical screenings and high quality early learning opportunities to prepare their children for kindergarten.
Funds made available by Laura and John Arnold are expected to help keep Head Start programs running through the end of October should the government shutdown continue. “We are extremely grateful for this generous act of kindness,” said Melinda Gault, executive director for Community Action Planning Council. “Laura and John Arnold are giving hope to low-income families around the country at a time when it appears their government has turned their backs on them. In the longer term, private investors are not a viable solution to the funding crisis threatening the nation’s poorest families and the economy. Elected officials have a duty to come to a resolution that protects and preserves vital programs such as Head Start.”
Head Start is a federally-funded preschool for children of low-income families. Community Action Planning Council operates Head Start centers in Watertown, Carthage, Dexter, Adams Center and Antwerp. Community Action Planning Council serves more than 10,000 individuals annually through a variety of programs, including Weatherization Assistance Program, Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project and Family Center Services – all of which rely on federal funding. At this time, it is unclear as to whether other federal funding sources will be affected by the continued government shutdown.