Standing beside local early education advocates and parents, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) today slammed the impact of the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as "sequestration" on Head Start early education programs for children in Westchester and Rockland Counties.
Due to the federal budget cuts, which went into effect on March 1, Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCOP), a not-for-profit social service agency that operates more than 30 Head Start programs in Westchester and Putnam Counties, is facing a $800,000 budget cut that will result in children losing access to Early Head Start and Head Start programs, as well as layoffs of personnel. Family Services of Westchester, which provides Head Start services in White Plains, will close one of its classrooms due to the cuts. It will also lay off teachers, cancel all field trips, and reduce its literacy and fatherhood programs.
Head Start of Rockland, which serves approximately 1,000 children in Rockland County, will be forced to eliminate its summer program.
"These cuts aren't just abstract projections. They have real consequences for children and working families right here in Westchester and Rockland Counties," said Congresswoman Lowey. "That is why I am once again calling on Congress to immediately pass a balanced deficit reduction plan that smartly trims unnecessary future spending while preserving the initiatives that matter most for our quality of life, particularly early childhood services. We need to end these senseless cuts and we need to restore these critical services to families in the Lower Hudson Valley."
"It is so sad that the most vulnerable among us, including children and working families, are bearing the brunt of these cuts. These cuts will negatively affect the lives of many children and families who rely on Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Westchester County, as well as our organization's hard-working staff," said Ellen Farrar, Head Start Director at WestCOP.
"Head Start of Rockland serves 1,000 of the most vulnerable children in Rockland County every year. We work to assist families who live in poverty and struggle to meet the basic needs of life. Due to the federal sequestration, our budget has been cut by 5.27%. This will significantly affect children as the summer program will be eliminated," said Ouida Foster-Toutebon, Executive Director of Head Start of Rockland.
The budget cuts, which went into effect on March 1 after Congress failed to act, cut non-defense spending like Head Start funding by approximately 5.3%. If they remain in place, the cuts are projected to reduce funding for Head Start programs in New York State by $26 million, resulting in a loss of services for approximately 4,600 students statewide. Nationally, 70,000 children are expected to lose access to Head Start this year, and 200,000 are expected to lose access in 2014 if the cuts remain in effect.
"All of these cuts come on top of local budgetary decisions that have increased the cost of child care for working families in Westchester," added Lowey. "I am concerned that without access to Head Start, many working families will face increased child care costs that could force some parents out of the workforce and hurt their family's income."
Earlier this year, Congresswoman Lowey released a report outlining the impact of the federal cuts on early education programs, medical research, law enforcement, education and other critical services in the Lower Hudson Valley if the sequester was to go into effect.