Head Start Community Concerned by Lack of Support in COVID-19 Relief Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Head Start Association (NHSA) expressed concern that supplemental COVID-19 response funding legislation proposed by Senate majority leadership fails to include support for Head Start. While the proposed legislation includes funding to support schools and child care providers in reopening, it does not include the $1.7 billion Head Start programs need to avert a devastating funding shortfall. NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci gave the following statement in reaction:

“Head Start programs are confronting unavoidable new costs in their ongoing work to provide services to children and families recovering from economic destabilization caused by COVID-19. The package released by Senate leadership today fails to address the vital needs of Head Start’s proven, crisis-tested programs that have stood by children and families throughout this crisis.

“Now, as Head Start programs work to reopen their classrooms safely, they are confronting the true cost of operating in the COVID-19 era. From PPE for children and staff to cleaning supplies 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 vulnerable children and families they are helping navigate this crisis.

“Head Start’s emergency funding needs are urgent, significant, and very real. We look forward to working with our congressional allies on both sides of the aisle to ensure these urgent needs are met so that Head Start classrooms can continue reopening safely.”

In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in the United States, Head Start programs have continued supporting 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 funding to operate safely in the face of unprecedented additional challenges and risks.

Nearly 50 national early childhood organizations recently joined together to collectively call for a supplemental appropriation of $1.7 billion in the upcoming COVID-19 response bill so Head Start programs can reopen their centers to children and families.

Based on an extensive survey of Head Start program directors, at least $1.7 billion in emergency funding is needed nationwide for Head Start programs to be able to continue delivering quality early education, emotional support, virtual classrooms, and safe, open facilities to the one million children and families served each year. More about these needs is outlined in the new NHSA report, “The True Cost of Reopening Head Start.”

About NHSA

The National Head Start Association is 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 840,000 children and families from systemically underserved populations, 250,000 staff, and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients. ••• Media Contact: Emily Wagner, Director of Communications, media@nhsa.org

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