House bill increases annual funding for Head Start, but COVID-19 response needs emerge
WASHINGTON, DC — The National Head Start Association (NHSA) today commended the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations on making positive progress by increasing Head Start funding for fiscal year 2021, beginning October 1. The committee passed an annual appropriations bill that included a $150 million increase for Head Start, bringing the early childhood development program’s annual support from Congress to nearly $10.8 billion. Of particular interest, the bill includes a $135 million cost-of-living adjustment for Head Start staff and $15 million in additional funding for Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs.
“Head Start appreciates the bipartisan support that underpins this funding increase from the committee,” NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said. “The $135 million in additional funding backstops the critical work of over 270,000 Head Start staff members nationwide who have gone beyond the call of duty to support children and families during COVID-19 with home visits, virtual learning initiatives, food distribution, and so much more. The increase is a clear recognition that Head Start programs help stabilize and strengthen communities and families, especially in this difficult time of racial tension and pandemic.”
Vinci continued, “Nonetheless, we have a long way to go to ensure programs are adequately resourced to meet the unavoidable and unplanned expenses brought on by COVID-19. Without question, additional funding is needed to meet the skyrocketing costs of health, safety, and academic program delivery for the upcoming school year.”
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Head Start programs continue their efforts to support children and families. Although the vast majority of Head Start programs temporarily suspended in-person centers to reduce the spread of COVID-19, all staff remained employed and continued providing critical services to children and families remotely. Now, as programs look to reopen and parents return to work, programs require additional support to operate safely in the face of unprecedented additional challenges and risks.
Based on an extensive survey of Head Start program directors, an additional $1.7 billion is needed nationwide for Head Start programs to operate at pre-COVID-19 levels and to be able to continue to deliver quality early education, emotional support, virtual classrooms, and safe, open facilities to the one million children and families served.
Vinci added, “Head Start is a science-backed approach to stabilizing the lives of children and families. Congress must build on the progress made today by further investing in the proven, crisis-tested Head Start programs across our country by prioritizing emergency resources for Head Start to safely and effectively respond to the growing hurdle COVID-19 has thrown in front of America’s most at-risk children and families.”