Government shutdown impacts local Head Start programs

Government shutdown impacts local Head Start programs

Posted: Updated:
BROOKSVILLE, FL (WFLA) -

The gridlock in Washington will soon start to impact some of the Bay Area's youngest residents.

Hernando Head Start programs could close at the end of the week because of the government's shutdown.

Related story: 10/1/13: Government shuts down

"Our grant year starts October 1st, which means as of yesterday we did not get our grant," said Elizabeth Hustead, the Family/Community Partnership Manager at the program in Brooksville. "The funds weren't drawn down because there's no one in Washington to give us our money."

Hustead said as of Friday, if things don't change in Washington, centers in Brooksville and Spring Hill will have to shut the doors. Dozens of low-income families will have to find alternatives for childcare given that both campuses serve 264 children. The 74 staff members will also be impacted.

"As of right now, any teaching staff, any maintenance staff, anybody that deals with the children will not be here on Monday," Hustead said. "Government is not able to play nice in the sandbox. But our children at Head Start play nice every day in the sandbox. So I don't understand why government doesn't understand who this is affecting and how bad it's affecting them."

Mid Florida Community Services, Inc. runs the campuses and is one of only 20 programs impacted nationwide because of when their fiscal year started. All other Head Start programs that got their grants should be operating as usual.

"It was like a silence fell over our whole campus," remembered Ericka Orjuela, who teaches at the Spring Hill campus. "Our bills are not going to be held off because the government's shutdown. The longer they wait, the worse it's going to get."

Parents are starting to feel that burden too. Jessica Hurd relies on the childcare for her 3-year-old son Gavin. Hurd, who works as a collections agent for a local hospital, doesn't know what she'll do come Monday and her frustration with lawmakers in Washington is obvious.

"I think if they took their paycheck away, they'd come up with a decision faster," she said.

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