Funding to support Community Action Planning Council’s Head Start program has been temporarily suspended as part of the government shutdown. The agency recently received word from the Administration for Children and Families that funds would not be released to the program, which was slated to begin a new contract year on October 1, 2013. Community Action Planning Council is drawing upon a limited reserve fund to keep the program running through October 11. If lawmakers fail to enact an appropriation to continue funding to the federal government by then, the agency will be forced to suspend Head Start programming to 257 children and their families.
The consequences of curtailing Head Start are far reaching. Parents who work or attend school will be left without child care. The gap in early childhood learning could impede school readiness – an area of focus for Head Start and preschool programs nationwide. Business revenue will be lost to local vendors who provide transportation services, food and supplies to Head Start. Fifty seven direct service staff and a number of support staff will be sent home without pay until funding has been restored.
“The government shutdown presents a serious economic situation for our community and has a demoralizing impact on so many families, children, and businesses,” said Melinda Gault, executive director for Community Action Planning Council. “Closing our Head Start program would be detrimental to local families – and the community as a whole.”
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 is also home to 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 is in jeopardy.