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End of Shutdown Leaves Head Start Providers Relieved, But With Questions

The Head Start grantees who faced a delay in funding because of the government shutdown said they were happy to see a resolution of the congressional stalemate, but still had some questions about when they might receive funding.

However, program directors contacted by Education Week said they understood that it'll take a little while for the federal offices to get up to speed. 

The 23 centers that were expecting their money on Oct. 1 served nearly 19,000 children. Many were able to remain open through allocations of state or local funds, and others were given a lifeline through a personal donation of $10 million from John and Laura Arnold, who run a Houston-based philanthropy. The interest-free loan from the Arnolds will be repaid when the Head Start centers receive their regular federal funding.

Dora Jones, the director of the Talladega, Ala.-based Talladega Clay Randolph Child Care Corp., a Head Start grantee serving 770 children, said she had not heard any news from Head Start regional offices, but she was expecting information to roll out by early next week. The six centers that the grantee runs had to close for six days before reopening with funds provided by the Arnolds. "We have not lost any children as a result," Jones said, though some families had to pay for other care providers while the center was closed.

Heidi Rand, the Head Start director of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc., located in Daytona Beach, said she was also expecting to hear more by Monday. The center had been able to stay open for a few days past Oct. 1, but had hung "closed" signs on its doors on Friday of that week when it heard the news about the Arnolds' donation. "We called everybody back that Friday afternoon, and we took a leap of faith that everything would work out," Rand said. 

Tim Center, the executive director of the Capital Area Community Action Agency, which administers Head Start in a three-county area surrounding Tallahassee, also received money from the Arnolds. One question still open for his organization is how his staff will be paid for the five days they were closed before the donation money from the Arnolds was distributed. The staff members—including teachers, bus drivers, and cooks—had already absorbed a five-day cut in pay because of the federal budget sequester, Center said. The agency chose to cut staff pay rather than eliminate any of the nearly 400 slots it has for children, he said. 

"At the least, we hope we will help them at the end of the year by adding on a few days," Center said. 

 

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