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Federally funded programs are bracing for a potential government shutdown if Congress cannot reach a budget solution this week.
One of those programs is West Virginia Head Start, a child-development program for children of income-eligible families to connect them with services that support health and success in school.
Approximately 722 children and families would lose access to resources if the shutdown lasts a long time, according to Lori Milam, executive director of West Virginia Head Start.
“If it’s a short shutdown, I think our programs are equipped to handle that and have plans in place for that, should it happen,” she said. “However, if it’s any amount of a long period, they would lose access very quickly. It would hurt our staff, which we’re struggling to hire and keep, as it is right now.”
In a warning, the White House estimated 10,000 children would lose access to Head Start programs across the country as the shutdown would prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from awarding grants.
“Oh, it’d be horrible,” Milam said. ”We are universal pre-K in West Virginia, so we collaborate in the school systems. We have staff in the school systems, which we know that the school systems are struggling as well to have staff. If we can’t provide the services, there’s probably no room in the school systems for them to provide their educational services, but they lose the comprehensive services that Head Start provides.”