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February 20, 2014

Merced County Head Start’s sequestration funds restored

Federal government cuts totalled $575,905

Merced County’s Head Start program, which lost more than a half million dollars in last year’s federal sequestration cuts, will have its funding restored.

Linda Kaercher, the county’s Head Start director, said she has heard through regional authorities that her agency will be allowed to reapply for the lost funding, thanks to action by Congress.

“That’s fantastic news,” Kaercher said. “I’m excited we will be able to restore those services. We haven’t received official notification yet from the office of Head Start in Washington, D.C., but we will get back all the funds.”

Sol Rivas, assistant Head Start director, said the 2013 cuts totaled $575,905; her office sent out layoff notices to 14 people who will have their positions restored.

“It was a sad deal back then but it’s a good thing now,” Rivas said.

Steve Gomes, Merced County superintendent of schools, said many families depend on Head Start for preschool education and socialization skills.

“I’m happy to see that the federal government has seen their way to restore these funds because it means a great deal in the lives of our families in Merced County,” Gomes said.

Kaercher said her office has been told that the Early Head Start program also will get more funds in partnership with state-funded child care programs. There are 188 children up to 3 years of age who take part in the Early Head Start program.

Sixteen Head Start centers or programs in Merced, Atwater, Livingston, Los Banos, Dos Palos, Planada, Le Grand, Gustine and Delhi serve 1,006 children.

Kaercher said an Early Head Start class was closed along with a regular Head Start classroom. With funds restored, these classrooms will be reopened this fall. She said her office is awaiting guidance in how to apply for the restored funding.

National sequestration cuts, which went into effect last March 1, totaled $85.4 billion.

Christie Hendricks, Merced County Office of Education assistant superintendent of the Early Education Department, said hopefully the funding will be restored to pre-sequestration levels.

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