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Sun., Oct. 4
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Jefferson County Head Start receives $1.5 million; still $600,000 short


The Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County will receive nearly $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services toward the oversight of Jefferson County Head Start, but is still $600,000 short of the total expected $2.1 million allocation for 2013-14, according to a joint news release from the offices of U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D- Plattsburgh, and Democratic U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

The recent grant award represents 70 percent of the federal money allocated for CAPC’s Head Start program. CAPC Executive Director Melinda M. Gault said she doesn’t know when or even if the agency will receive the remaining 30 percent. If CAPC does not receive that money, Jefferson County Head Start will close much earlier than anticipated.

“We’re so delighted to have this,” Ms. Gault said, regarding the partial funding. “We’re very happy to get it, and it goes back retroactive to Oct. 1.”

That means the nearly $72,000 CAPC paid upfront to keep the program going through Oct. 15, when the two-week federal government shutdown ended, will be reimbursed into the agency’s budget. While two Texas philanthropists offered $10 million in emergency funding to keep Head Start programs across the nation open, Ms. Gault said CAPC didn’t have to access that funding source.

Ms. Gault said she assumes Jefferson County Head Start not being fully funded has to do with “the uncertainty of what’s happening in Washington, and possible sequestration again in January.”

CAPC already experienced effects of sequestration, when the agency’s funding was cut 5 percent last year. That loss of funds resulted in the Jefferson County program starting one week late, and it will end one week early, on June 10.

Other cuts or program changes may come if the remaining funds don’t arrive. CAPC’s Head Start funding cycle is Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 each year. Each Head Start may have different funding cycles, which is the case for programs in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. A new funding cycle will begin Jan. 1 in St. Lawrence County, and March 1 in Lewis County.

“Obviously we have a backup plan; we’d have to shut down the program early,” Ms. Gault said. “That’d take care of the 30 percent, but we’d be laying off staff and kids wouldn’t get a full year of school.”

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. CAPC operates Head Start centers in Watertown, Carthage, Dexter, Adams Center and Antwerp, where 257 children are served and 66 people are employed annually.

Ms. Gault said she hopes to hear about the $600,000 by year’s end.

“Head Start is a type of prekindergarten, and I have high hopes it will continue, and even expand, because it’s so needed,” Ms. Gault said. “Right now, we have 200 children on our waiting list. We’re hoping with early childhood interest at the national level it’ll come to fruition to us at the local level.”

The overall $2.1 million is the same amount of funding as CAPC received for Head Start for its 2012-13 funding cycle.

Ms. Gault said throughout all of the funding troubles, Head Start staff and parents have been “wonderful through this whole ordeal.”

“They were positive and put on a good face,” she said. “We got through it.”

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