October may be Child Development Awareness Month, but a time that is normally reserved for celebration of the program is turning into a time of concern for KCEOC Community Action Partnership staff and clients.
The concern is being prompted by the continued shutdown of the federal government that is threatening to disrupt service to KCEOC’s Head Start/Early Head Start Program.
Annual federal funding to run Head Start/Early Head Start Programs is distributed throughout the year.
On the first of each month, a handful of programs are awarded their annual funding. KCEOC’s funding period begins Nov. 1. This means if the federal government is still shutdown by this date, KCEOC will not receive funding to continue Head Start/Early Head Start services. As a result, the doors would immediately close to all 46 classrooms center-based classrooms and 26 home-based classrooms in Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Rockcastle and Whitley Counties. This loss would end with 1,028 low-income children without access to the early childhood development program.
Head Start/Early Head Start will not be the only programs impacted by a continued government shutdown. KCEOC operates many programs designed to combat the causes of poverty. These anti-poverty programs, which provide emergency, housing, economic development and job training services to over 6,000 people each year, will also be affected and could see delays in service.
This comes after the sequester hit KCEOC with a 5.27 percent funding cut back in the spring, leaving the agency in a financial struggle that has already resulted in a reduction in services. This cut, which was for a full year, had to be taken in shorter periods of time, depending on the program contract dates. Since the sequester KCEOC has cut expenditures in all programs, but Head Start was hit particularly hard. So far, four classrooms have been closed, leaving 80 children without access to the early childhood development program and 15 KCEOC staff positions being eliminated. Preliminary figures show KCEOC may have to take more drastic measures to meet the demands of the sequester cutes.
In addition to serving thousands of people by helping them break the cycle of poverty, KCEOC is also a considerable employer. It is estimated that a minimum of 180 KCEOC employees could be laid-off if the government shutdown doesn’t end before Nov. 1.
Although unsure of what the future holds, KCEOC staff remain strongly dedicated to providing the best possible services to the clients they serve. Many staff is increasing their personal donations to the agency, and many more have taken annual leave (that is not charged to the annual budget) in hopes of helping balance the budget. Part of The Community Action Promise is to embody the spirit of hope. Now, just as always, that spirit of hope is noticeably prominent at KCEOC, despite this period of uncertainty.