Senators Unite Across Party Lines to Champion Head Start Relief Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Head Start Association (NHSA) applauded two U.S. Senators for uniting in their call for Congress to provide emergency funding for Head Start to address an increase of up to 20% in programs’ operational costs due to the pandemic. U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sent a letter to Senate leadership today urging them to include relief funding for Head Start programs in the next COVID-19 bill.

NHSA is advocating for at least $1.7 billion in emergency funding, which is based on extensive surveying of Head Start providers nationwide about their anticipated costs to re-open safely for in-person instruction and to continue to provide virtual and home-based services.

NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said, “On behalf of the nearly one million Head Start children and families and 270,000 staff, we thank Senators Duckworth and Murkowski for their leadership and commitment to our nation’s most vulnerable at this critical time. Since its inception in 1965, Head Start has supported children and families with equitable, comprehensive services that enable them to thrive, no matter the circumstances outside of the classroom. In recent months, Head Start has demonstrated the impact of this nimble, child and family-centered model in a profound way. We are grateful to the Senators for recognizing Head Start’s importance in communities, and the substantial funding needed to continue, and we urge their congressional colleagues to join them.”

Senator Duckworth said, “Programs like Head Start are critical to giving kids in Illinois and across the country the tools they need to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom. These services are a lifeline for many families during the COVID-19 pandemic. We should do all we can to make sure these programs can continue providing education and high-quality childcare so children access their full potential.”

Senator Murkowski said, “In Alaska and across the country, Head Start programs not only provide child care so parents can work, they help vulnerable families get on a path to a successful future. They provide high-quality early learning, health, and nutrition services for infants and toddlers. They also help parents learn strong parenting skills, advance their family’s well-being, and successfully navigate times of crisis. During this pandemic, Head Start programs have employed innovative ways to provide these crucial services while centers have been closed. But in order to maintain these efforts and re-open centers safely, Head Start needs additional support. We must ensure that these programs have sufficient funds to continue their important work during this public health crisis.”

In their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY), Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senators Duckworth and Murkowski wrote, “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Head Start programs quickly adapted and readjusted their Head Start model to implement innovative strategies to help vulnerable families in need during the public health crisis. Despite these innovative efforts, operating during a deadly pandemic has carried additional costs that will only increase as these programs begin to re-open for in-person instruction…The emergency funding we are requesting would enable Head Start programs to cover these costs and to re-open for in-person instruction and enable more low-income parents to access the high-quality child care they need to get back to work.”

Since March, Head Start programs have made significant adaptations so that they could continue to operate amidst COVID-19 and provide quality early education, emotional support, virtual classrooms, and safe, open facilities to the more than one million children and families who are served annually by the comprehensive early childhood program.

In the letter, Senators Duckworth and Murkowski point to how Head Start programs have adapted their services to respond to the needs of their communities during this public health crisis.

“Throughout the pandemic, these programs have distributed food, technology and learning resources to families; opened their facilities for children of emergency essential workers and families experiencing homelessness; provided children with both at-home lessons and virtual home visits; delivered baby formula and diapers to mothers; and helped parents navigate the unemployment process. These services made it possible for families to receive critical health and education resources they would not have had otherwise, significantly enhancing the lives of children and their parents.”

About NHSA

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 nearly 1 million children, 270,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start and Early Head Start grantees in the United States. ••• Media Contact:

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