WASHINGTON, DC – National Head Start Association (NHSA) Executive Director Yasmina Vinci penned an opinion article published today in Washington’s The Hill newspaper calling on Congress to provide the emergency relief funding Head Start programs need to continue operating in the COVID-19 era—funding that was included in the House of Representatives' recently passed HEROES Act. The article, “Head Start never stops working for children and families, and neither should Congress,” highlights how Head Start programs nationwide are innovating to continue supporting the educational, health, and nutrition needs of more than one million children from at-risk backgrounds, while also grappling with the increased cost of operating safely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vinci writes, “This fall, as more Head Start programs are engaged in reopening their classrooms safely, they are confronting the true cost of operating in the COVID-19 era. From PPE for children and staff to increased hours for janitorial staff to additional mental health services for children coping with this new trauma, Head Start programs are facing a funding shortfall that will soon impact the children and families they are supporting in navigating this crisis.”
For months, NHSA and the Head Start community have been advocating for Congress to close the $1.7 billion funding gap that nearly 1,600 community-based programs are facing due to COVID-19. This figure is based on extensive surveying of Head Start providers nationwide about their anticipated costs to reopen safely for in-person instruction and continue to provide virtual and home-based services. Programs are already reporting an increase of up to 50% in operational costs due to the pandemic. In September, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) sent a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership making the case for funding Head Start’s COVID-19 needs, after a similar bipartisan effort led by Reps. Titus (D-NV) and Katko (R-NY) gained strong traction in the House in July.
In her appeal in The Hill, Vinci concludes, “In thousands of communities nationwide, Head Start partners with children and families to realize their potential. Head Start’s collective voice is powerful, and it is calling out for help right now. Head Start won’t stop working for children and families across our country. We need Congress to get to work for these children and families, too.”
The National Head Start Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than one million children, 270,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Visit www.nhsa.org and follow @NatlHeadStart for more information.
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