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Responding to COVID-19
How Head Start can help support vulnerable children and families

To ensure that we face the next few months with the strength and resilience that Head Start families and programs are known for, NHSA has been extremely active in Washington. The government affairs team has been pushing for additional resources, flexibility, and guidance to help Head Start programs address the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on our communities.

Advocating for additional resources

As the effects of COVID-19 on both health and the economy unfold, it is important that the programs that care for and educate Head Start children have the support they need to execute their critical role. NHSA’s government affairs team has been in frequent conversation with congressional leaders and their staff to share Head Start’s evolving needs amidst the COVID-19 public health emergency. NHSA joined a coalition of early childhood organizations in writing to all of Congress with a request for substantial and flexible emergency funding for child care providers and Head Start in response to COVID-19. NHSA followed up with another letter directly to congressional leadership asking them to prioritize Head Start, and then activated the network of state Head Start associations in building support for this emergency funding.

On March 27, NHSA welcomed the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act to help Americans weather the immediate and economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill includes $750 million for Head Start to meet emergency staffing needs, address added operational costs, and provide summer learning opportunities. The funding is helping to stabilize the networks that are critical to Head Start children and families, including support for child care, nutrition, housing security, and the unemployed. NHSA will continue advocating for the support and flexibility our Head Start programs, families, and communities need to overcome this challenge.

As Congress continues work on the next wave of COVID-19 emergency funding, NHSA is continuing to advocate for the support and flexibility our Head Start programs, families, and communities need to overcome this challenge. We are also working with our early childhood advocacy partners to influence decision-makers, and recently NHSA added our support to a coalition letter urging Congress to support home visiting.

Supporting program’s unique needs

In addition to sharing updates and resources to help Head Start navigate this ever-changing situation, NHSA’s Executive Director Yasmina Vinci is hosting weekly "kitchen table" community conversations for programs to interact and support colleagues across the nation until the threat of COVID-19. This is part of NHSA’s continuous conversation with the Head Start field to assess the developing needs of this unique community.

Supporting state policy needs

NHSA worked with Head Start state leaders to develop state policy recommendations state policy recommendations with a focus on supporting children and families from at-risk backgrounds, delivering resources and flexibility to child care partners, and bolstering recovery once the immediate COVID-19 crisis wanes, so we can build an even more resilient, effective, and connected system of support for young children and their families.

Working with OHS on regulatory flexibility

NHSA has also been communicating closely with the Office of Head Start regarding the regulatory flexibilities programs need in these unprecedented circumstances. In response, OHS has already provided some guidance and flexibilities regarding wages and other critical program operations.

NHSA advocated for increasing the flexibilities of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) as it relates to Head Start’s ability to provide “non-congregate" feeding (grab and go, drop-off etc.). This is an urgent need for many Head Start children and families, and NHSA welcomed Congress’s swift action to pass legislation that cleared the way for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create greater flexibility.

NHSA will keep advocating to the administration for the regulatory flexibility programs need to meet the challenges of adapting services while also protecting the health of Head Start children, families, and staff.

Support Head Start Advocacy

We are profoundly grateful for the many members of our community who have made contributions to Dollar per Child (DpC) in recent days. DpC is the sole funding source for NHSA’s advocacy work. As we all face the economic impacts of COVID-19, your continued generosity will help ensure the vulnerable children and families we serve get the support they need.