Funds from private donor reopen Head Start programs

By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

Funding from a private donor will allow a Mississippi Head Start program that was closed because of the federal government shutdown to reopen.

The Five County Child Development Program – which serves about 900 children in Simpson, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis and Covington Counties – will reopen on Tuesday. It had been closed since last Tuesday.

Its reopening was made possible by a private donation from philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, who provided up to $10 million in emergency funds to reopen closed Head Start Programs in six states.

“This means a lot, not only to us, but it means a lot to the children and the families we serve,” said Jonathan Bines, Head Start Director for Five County Child Development Programs. “It gives children an opportunity to get an education, it gives parents an opportunity to work with their children in the schools, and it helps parents who have had to find somewhere for their children to be during the work hours.”

Mississippi has 19 different Head Start programs, which serve about 30,000 at-risk children, ages 0 to 5. Funding cycles determine which programs will be impacted by the shutdown.

The Five County Development program began its fiscal year on Oct. 1. It is the only Head Start program in Mississippi that has had to close thus far due to the shutdown. However, a program in Jackson County that serves more than 600 children and an Early Head Start Program in Pearl also could be forced to close if the shutdown is not resolved by Friday, said Nita Thompson, executive director of the Mississippi Head Start Association.

The donation from the Arnolds also will reopen programs in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, according to the Washington Post. The money will be paid back without interest if the Head Start programs receive funding for a full year once the government reopens, the newspaper said. The money could also prevent other programs from closing.

Bines said he had heard from many single parents who said they could not afford daycare and had trouble finding childcare while the center was closed.

“I’ve been getting constant calls,” he said.

See Tuesday’s Daily Journal for more information.