Head Start funding plummets for Chicago organizations after application change

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Leaders of several organizations that provide early childhood education to Chicago children are scrambling to help their families, as they said changes to the Head Start application has led to their funding being reduced or eliminated entirely.

Eridany Ortega and her husband are just getting back on their feet. They've been out of work during the pandemic, and now she may need to give up her part time job because their son's Head Start program at the YMCA runs out of money at the end of the month.

"This is so abrupt, to be given a two week notice just for myself," she said. "What am I going to tell my son?"

The YMCA is one of the organizations affected by the application changes.

"Our families deserve continuity of service, they deserve to have a choice," said Dorothy Cole-Gary, executive director of Early Education and Childcare at YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. "Parents also deserve time."

"We are asking, in the short term, the City of Chicago and the office of Head Start work together so that children are not on the street in the next two weeks," said Nakisha Hobbs, CEO of It Takes A Village.

Monday the city announced that it, along with five other Chicago agencies, were chosen as Head Start grantees. Among them is Chicago Commons, which have been offering Head Start for 20 years.

"I believe it's incumbent on the new grantees, including the city of Chicago, to come together to figure out what makes what makes the most sense, and how we can ease possibly burdens of transition for families in Chicago," said Edgar Ramirez, president and CEO of Chicago Commons.

For now, agencies are trying to help impacted families transition into new programs, or are looking for funding alternatives.

ABC7 reached out to the City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, of which Head Start is a part, but did not hear back from either before deadline.
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