WASHINGTON, DC – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released a report highlighting Head Start’s effective response in managing the spread of COVID-19. The report detailed Head Start’s success in implementing CDC-recommended guidance and other mitigation strategies that could serve as a model for the early care and education system across the country. The report also validated the critical role that increased funding, provided through the CARES Act, played in enabling Head Start programs to support families in a safe, healthy manner. NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci applauded the study and noted that maintaining best COVID-19 practices will require additional resources for programs, as infection rates continue to rise across the country.
The study, which included Head Start grantees in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, noted several factors contributing to successful implementation of CDC-recommended guidelines that helped to prevent COVID-19 transmission among children and staff members, including:
- Following the lead of experts and their recommendations;
- Funding programs through the CARES Act to enable necessary adaptations;
- Providing flexibility and support for Head Start staff, including flexible medical leave, reimbursement for health care costs, remote work options, and flexible hours;
- Taking a nimble, multi-pronged approach that evolves as circumstances change; and
- Conducting multi-faceted, ongoing communication with consistent messaging among program administrators, parents and caregivers, teachers, and other staff members, as well as continuous engagement with community partners.
National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci issued the following statement:
“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Head Start has once again set the standard for delivering high-quality early care and education, taking every possible precaution to protect the health of Head Start children, families, and staff and the communities in which they live,” said Vinci. “Head Start and Early Head Start programs have led the way in responding to COVID-19, successfully continuing services to families and implementing guidance to reopen and remain open for in-person services. Head Start’s ability to be nimble, while simultaneously following research-based guidelines and maintaining its longstanding parent engagement practices, enabled programs to adjust rapidly to local circumstances and continue providing the high-quality services it is known for.”
“Head Start was able to quickly and effectively respond to COVID-19 with CARES Act funding. Now, nearly nine months after the CARES Act passed in Congress, the pandemic endures with no further funding to address Head Start’s 20% increase in cost necessary to implement these proven practices. In order to continue safely meeting the needs of children and families, stay open, and successfully reopen, Head Start needs an additional $1.7 billion in supplemental funding.”
Last week, bipartisan legislation, the Jumpstart for Head Start Act, was introduced in the House by Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado and Rep. John Katko of New York. Their bill would provide Head Start with $1.7 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to meet additional costs of staffing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and other needs. In September, the House passed the Heroes Act which also included $1.7 billion to address Head Start’s acute COVID-19 needs.