Cuts to early head start has parents asking, 'What am I going to do now?'
We caught with Mo. State Senator Brian Munzlinger, (R)-18th District, while he was visiting the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Moberly, and asked him why such drastic cuts were made to Early Head Start program. He said the cuts to the program were included in a budget bill that included many other cuts and said it was a unanimous vote by the Senate to cut the program.
"We didn't want to hurt the families but that was done in the budget process," said Sen.. Munzlinger. "This is the toughest budget year that we've ever faced since I've been there and looking for a way to stay within a balanced budget. It was one of the things that fell under the ax. I hope to see that restored maybe."
Munzlinger said in order for supplementary funds to be used to restore the cuts to the program, Governor Jay Nixon will have to ask that it be included in the supplemental budget.
Several Heartland low-income families will learn soon if they'll be losing state-funded child care for the month of July. The cuts are due to Missouri legislators cutting some $3 million from the state's Early Head Start Program. That amounts to more than $278,000 being cut from Northeast Missouri Community Action Agency, a local Heartland organization that grants early head start funds to local needy families.
Penny Miles, its Executive Director, said 38 Early Head Start slots will be cut in the month of July. That leaves 32 slots available. She said there is a chance for 44 slots to be available, if they get a positive response from inquiries they made to the federal Head Start Program. In August, the agency will use federal grant money to offer 44 slots. She said this is due to federal budgets beginning in August. Miles also said this could be increased to 54 slots if the federal Head Start Office allows them to convert 10 of their head start slots, allocated to children 3-5 years old, to early head start slots, used for children ages 0-3 years old, along with prenatal care.
"There were tears when we told people that might not have daycare for July," said Miles. "They don't have vacation where they can just take off. A lot of them are single parents, so they don't have a backup there. We're in a time where, grandparents are still working. People are working later so it's not like grandma and grandpa are at home and they can take care of kids while mom and dad work. "
Miles and her staff have been dealing with the budget cuts since May, trying to figure out how to make the cuts and where. She said this is very traumatic for the families involved. In order to receive child care assistance, the parents must work 32 hours per week, or be enrolled in school full-time, and meet the income requirements. For a family of two, that means the parent must make $15,130 or less a year.
In order to decide which children will be cut from the program, the agency is asking parents to re-apply.
"We're going to do the whole application process over again so that we are getting/ meeting the needs of the family;those with the highest needs will be the ones accepted first into the program," said Miles. "The ones who are in the program now who are going to have to be cut, they will be receiving priority as we go ahead for any openings that become available."
According to Miles, the children that are cut will be put on a waiting list. Three daycares in Kirksville and one provider in Edina are being affected by these cuts, including Bright Beginnings Infant/Toddler Center, Early Childhood Learning Center, Jamison Street Head Start Center. Miles said Jamison Street will pick up most of the burden of the cuts, since it is run by the NEMO Community Action Agency. It will close for July and five to eight workers will be laid off. Bright Beginnings is holding fundraisers to try to raise money to keep the children in daycare for the month of July and has yet to learn its fate for August. Miles said the Kirksville R-III School District will assume the cost of keeping the early head start children enrolled at Early Childhood Learning Center for July.
After August is resolved, Miles said there shouldn't be any more cuts. In order to restore the cuts, she said legislators are looking into using supplementary funds, which cannot be allocated until January. If that doesn't work, the money will have to be written back into a law, and won't be available until July 2013.
The cuts are result of legislators voting to take the money away from Early Head Start and allocate it towards Veterans Homes. Miles said the legislators thought they kept the funding for early head start when they voted for the bill, but in fact, had mistakenly allocated the funds towards the Early Childhood Special Education Fund.