What the Infrastructure Deal Means for Head Start

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a monumental step forward for the nation. While much more direct impacts to Head Start and Early Head Start will likely be observed in the pending Build Back Better legislation (including pre-k and child care expansion), the infrastructure package does hold some key provisions for the Head Start community. Here are three ways the passage of this historic legislation will impact us:

1. The bill will expand access to clean drinking water by replacing lead water pipes.

The water crisis in Flint shed light on one of the many ways the crippling effects of poverty in a child’s earliest years echo throughout their lifetime. This funding is an important investment that will ensure that the children and families affected by the lead contamination get solution-oriented mitigating services.In addition, support systems must be activated to address social and health issues arising from the water crisis, including special education and mental health programs and medical care. Head Start’s service model is proven infrastructure through which these interventions can be delivered efficiently.

2. The bill will make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in America.

The digital divide—the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not—starts early and especially impacts families with low-incomes, families in rural communities, and Black and Hispanic households. Parents’ digital lives are all encompassing, from taking classes online or applying for jobs, to banking virtually or looking up a bus schedule. Likewise, early technology instruction ensures Head Start children can keep up with their peers as they transition to a K-12 setting. This investment in broadband will ensure Head Start families stay connected and engaged. And, when in-person teaching is disrupted, it will ensure Head Start can serve children and families during the challenging times without interruption.

3. The bill will build up our resilience for extreme weather and natural disasters.

From hurricanes to tornadoes to wildfires, children and families cope with the trauma of natural disasters and struggle to overcome their aftereffects. Protective factors can help children bounce back from these traumatic experiences and offer hope in times of trouble, but the most protective course of action is prevention. This funding will boost the work Head Start does to provide support and care for those impacted while also promoting resilience for families and children.

The White House fact sheet outlines all the specifics of the bill. We are grateful and excited about this new chapter in our nation and are hopeful that it will create positive momentum in the push to pass the Build Back Better Act toward the finish line.

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