STATELINE (WIFR) -- $85 billion in federal spending cuts will automatically take effect in less than three weeks, if Congress doesn’t come up with a plan. This measure was delayed last month under the last-minute fiscal cliff deal. The cuts would hit Head Start and could affect hundreds of families.
About 800 kids in Winnebago County play and learn under Head Start every year. The federally-funded program provides pre-school and other services for low-income families. However, fewer families could be getting help. Nationwide, Head Start could see as much as an 8% reduction in federal aid if automatic spending cuts kick in.
“It could impact us locally by having to have a reduction in services, we could have to reduce our staff, said Joanne Lewis, Director of City of Rockford Head Start.
Head Start leaders ay the last thing they want to do is turn students away.
The program could be forced to make cuts in other areas like transportation, but the problem is 95% of kids in the local program take the bus.
Head Start says it’s a struggle to maintain transportation services, even with more federal dollars. These are the minimal increases Head Start has seen over the last five years.
Local congressman Adam Kinzinger says both Republicans and Democrats need to work together to avoid these cuts, otherwise as Kinzinger says, “every program people like is frankly going to take a hit in this sequester package.”
Head Start also helps families with things like food and clothing. It currently has 105 staff members in Rockford. They say they’re bare bones, having cut 11 people in 2002 not being able hire them back.
Some Senate Democrats have come up with a plan to cut the Pentagon’s budget by $3 billioin dollars a year, but Republicans will likely block that, because it would also require millionaires to pay at least a 30% income tax. A more detailed plan is expected to be released in a few days.