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Head Start program in Jefferson County gets emergency funding

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The Head Start program in Jefferson County has been saved from the budget impasse, at least temporarily.

All 257 children in the program have avoided an educational furlough, for now, thanks to part of $10 million in emergency funding from philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, Houston, Texas. According to the National Head Start Association, that emergency funding will help more than 7,000 at-risk children return to their classrooms.

Funding for Head Start was halted Oct. 1 when the federal government shutdown began.

The Jefferson County Head Start program is run by the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County. Deputy Director Dawn M. Cole said CAPC officials requested $133,247 to keep the Jefferson County program running through the end of the month, “and are awaiting further communication from the National Head Start Association.”

“A letter is going out to parents (today) to share the good news,” she said. “It’s a temporary respite.”

Without the emergency funding, the Jefferson County program would have ended this Friday and all 57 Head Start employees would have been furloughed. CAPC put up some money to continue the program from Oct. 1 to Friday.

According to a news release from the National Head Start Association, “money for Head Start in Fiscal Year 2014 has not been appropriated yet due to the stalemate in Washington leaving some programs with no access to federal funds.”

“For nearly fifty years, Head Start has been the window of opportunity for more than 27 million of our nation’s poorest children as they embark on their journey to achieve the American Dream,” National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said in a prepared statement, “The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Head Start promotes school readiness of children from birth to age 5 and offers classroom settings for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children of low-income families, including those in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. All Head Start programs already were affected by federal budget issues this year. Through sequestration, local programs were reduced by 5 percent.

CAPC operates Head Start centers in Watertown, Carthage, Dexter, Adams Center and Antwerp.

Meanwhile, there will not be an immediate effect on Lewis and St. Lawrence counties’ Head Start programs, as their funding cycles begin a few months after the one in Jefferson County.

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