February 2011 U.S. Poverty Action
Take Action! Protect Jobs and Important Early Childhood Development Services for Kids
There is no greater responsibility we have as a people than to care for our children. And for low-income children who face challenges that many other children do not face, we must do what we can to give them the best chance at success in life. Programs like Head Start and Early Head Start, and child care assistance for low-income working families have proven successful time and again at helping vulnerable children, and key to a smarter, healthier and stronger America. Unfortunately, only one in six eligible children receives child care assistance, only four percent of eligible infants and toddlers participate in Early Head Start and less than half of eligible preschool-age children access the comprehensive supports of Head Start. And, budget cuts are threatening to erode the successes we’ve had once again. This is why writing your members of Congress right now is so important. They need to hear that investing in our children is about helping at-risk kids right now who can, in President Obama’s words, “win the future.”
The House passed their FY 2011 budget, H.R.1, on February 18. Unfortunately, it includes substantial cuts to Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance (over $2 billion from Head Start/Early Head Start and over $1 billion from the Child Care Development Block Grant). As a result of these cuts, 218,000 low-income children will lose Head Start/Early Head Start services, 16,000 Head Start/Early Head Start classrooms will close, and 55,000 Head Start/Early Head Start teachers and staff will lose their jobs. In addition, 150,000 low-income children and their families will lose assistance in paying for child care.
Fortunately, the Senate has so far refused to accept this budget plan. With a March 4 government shutdown looming, Congress has passed a new continuing resolution (CR) on March 3. This CR lasts two weeks (through March 18). Head Start/Early Head Start will see no cuts during this time and CCDBG will see a $1 million cut (the cut applies to a website and hotline to help people find local child care providers). What happens next is unclear but Head Start and child care are still very much on the chopping block. Instead of reckless and short-sighted cuts, Congress should be focusing on allocating enough funding to maintain current service levels. It is critical that Congress continue these important supports for working families in 2011 and 2012; services that allow parents to work and thousands of jobs are at stake. America’s children are our most important investment; tell Congress to protect their future and the jobs they represent by providing the necessary funding for Head Start and CCDBG.
Take Action! Write Letters to Protect 368,000 Children from Losing Vital Services
Use these talking points to draft handwritten letters to representatives and senators and fax your letters to Congress ASAP (and send them also to their local offices to ensure they are received). Even better, adapt these talking points for face-to-face lobby meetings or a “laser talk” at a town hall meeting. Don’t have time to write a letter? Use our online action alert to send a quick e-mail directly to your representatives and senators.
Note: To find contact information, including telephone numbers and addresses for congressional offices and the names of the health and tax staffer, visit our Elected Officials page (http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/). For directory assistance, you can also contact the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Protect Jobs and Services by Maintaining Head Start and Child Care Funding
For low-income and other families, child care is often the highest or second highest cost in family budgets. More parents now spend large portions of their income on child care; some are forced to quit their jobs and turn to welfare when child care assistance is not available. Despite the importance of high-quality child care to school readiness and later success, only about one in six children eligible for federal child care assistance receives help, and this unmet need continues to grow as the eligible population has increased and the number of children receiving assistance has declined. The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care - 2010 Update, reveals that child care prices continue to rise, despite the nation’s economic downturn. NACCRRA found that since 2000, the cost of child care has increased twice as fast as the median income of families with children and the cost of care for an infant in a child care center is more than the cost of college tuition and related expenses in 40 states. In 2009, child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4 year old) in a child care center exceeded annual median rent and mortgage payments in 18 states. As child care costs rise, parents are shifting their children from licensed programs to informal care that potentially compromises their safety, health, and school readiness.
Head Start is a comprehensive program for low-income preschool aged children, mostly 3- and 4-year-olds, and their families. Head Start addresses the whole child, by providing school readiness and education, health services including dental and mental health, nutrition assistance, supports to families, and opportunities for parents to participate in decision-making. Early Head Start offers similar services to infants and toddlers and their families. It is designed to promote healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, enhance the development of very young children, and promote healthy family functioning. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) provides a block grant of funding to states for child care assistance to help low-income working families become and remain independent.
Despite the long success of Head Start and CCDBG, only one in six eligible children receives child care assistance, only four percent of eligible infants and toddlers participate in Early Head Start and less than half of eligible preschool-age children access the comprehensive supports of Head Start. In 2009 Congress provided $2 billion each in new funding for both Head Start and CCDBG through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These were the largest single funding increases in either program’s history. As a result, over 200,000 children and their families were able to receive child care assistance and 7,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms opened. In addition, thousands of jobs were created. Unfortunately, the new Congress wants to cut the funding necessary to maintain these services.
Each and every member of Congress can have an important voice in shaping the remainder of the budget for FY 2011, which will create baseline funding numbers that may determine the fate of these programs for the next five years or more . Given the five-year freeze called for by the President in the State of the Union address and the even more draconian cuts called for by the Republican House, the 2011 baseline is critical. We need all of our members of Congress to be communicating with budget and appropriation committee leadership before they begin finalizing the next Continuing Resolution to get us through FY 2011, and continuing to push for adequate funding levels in 2012. If our members express support for our critical priorities, it will help build momentum and allow the committee leaders to focus on Head Start and childcare priorities which resonate with the economic recovery’s focus both on jobs and education.
The Larger Battle: Strengthening America’s Values and Economy for All
The challenges facing us as we work to protect funding for Head Start, child care and other key supports for low-income families will be part of a larger battle over budget cuts and deficit reduction. RESULTS is part of a new campaign called SAVE For All (Strengthening America’s Values and Economy For All), and we’ve signed on to the Statement of Principles as a national organization. With deep cuts already proposed in advance of the president’s budget release, the time to stand up for these programs and the people they support is NOW. We urge you to participate the SAVE campaign’s lobby visits by phone if you are able, and sign your local RESULTS group on to the SAVE campaign’s statement of principles to show your support for preserving and strengthening our federal capacity to expand opportunity and enable all Americans to obtain economic security. Please urge other local organizations to do the same.
To understand the challenges ahead, on February 2 the Half in Ten campaign sponsored (and RESULTS co-sponsored) a special webinar, Road to Shared Prosperity: Fighting for Economic Security Through Grassroots Advocacy. On this webinar a distinguished panel of speakers spoke about the threats facing low-income Americans in the upcoming debate over deficit reduction and the importance of grassroots advocacy to protect strong programs that are the lifeblood of local communities, families, and businesses. If you missed the webinar, you can sign up for more information on Half in Ten’s upcoming trainings on communications, social media, innovative in-district advocacy, and storybanking. These trainings will be scheduled over the coming weeks and will provide a good opportunity to shore up your skills to participate in the high-stakes policy debates ahead. RESULTS may play a role in these trainings, sharing the best practices from our Activist Toolkit. In addition, we urge you to contribute to the Half in Ten/Coalition on Human Needs Story Bank. Submit your story of how federal programs have played an important role in your life, the life of those you work with, or in the life of your business.
We will discuss our early childhood campaign and the battles ahead on the February 2011 National Conference Call — Saturday, February 12, at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.