NHSA thanks HHS for administrative change to allow Head Start to reach SNAP-eligible families

Washington, D.C. — This afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced via an Information Memorandum that children who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can now be considered eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start prenatal-to-five services and supports, including school readiness, nutrition and family support. This administrative flexibility will supercharge Head Start’s work in local communities to prioritize service to families and children who most need it, especially those who are already eligible but are either unaware or reluctant to go through an additional administrative process.

“On behalf of the Head Start community, NHSA expresses our gratitude to leadership at the helm of HHS for taking action on behalf of food insecure children by clearing a pathway to Head Start’s comprehensive services, including nutrition.” said NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci. “While this change to the paperwork process may appear small, it will relieve a significant administrative burden that keeps children and families from enrolling. Anything we can do in these times to ease a burden on families recovering from this pandemic is good policy.”

NHSA has been pointing to the need to reduce administrative burden–which includes the time invested in documenting their income and meeting procedural requirements as well as the potential psychological costs accrued along the way, such as the stigma associated with receiving social welfare benefits–throughout the past three presidential Administrations. Recent analysis shared in the OHS announcement noted the share of families enrolling in Head Start based on the statute’s public assistance receipt prong, which enables this change, has declined since 2015 from 16% of the total enrollment to just 10% in 2019.

“This change reinforces the key position programs play in the lives of children and families and will no doubt go a long way in supporting both the compassionate customer service for which Head Start is so well-known and the Head Start staff responsible for processing applications and prioritizing those with the highest need first,” said Vinci.

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 1 million children, 270,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients in the United States. ••• Media Contact: Emily Wagner, Director of Communications, media@nhsa.org