At Head Start, WIC, it’s business as usual for now

MARSHALL – In the near term at least, low income families using Head Start and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs should not be affected by the government shutdown.

Despite fears of programs closing, area Head Start programs should not see any change in the short term, according to Gail Goltz, director of Head Start of Western Community Action in Marshall.

The area Head Start covers a five-county area with nine classrooms, four of them in Marshall.

According to Goltz, Head Start’s budget cycle runs from January to December, which is not concurrent with the federal budget cycle that goes from October to September.

Head Start’s funding is not affected, though there might be some problems with electronic fund withdrawals.

“The shutdown will not affect us substantially right now,” Goltz said. “But we withdraw money as we spend it, and we might have glitches. I got a memo from federal Head Start saying some sites have run into issues. Sometimes there’s a data entry error, some grants have specific conditions attached, or say you’re drawing down an unusual amount – something that would trigger a red flag requiring a person to look at it, and there’s nobody there.”

Goltz said in the 10 years she’s worked at Head Start it has not been affected by any of the previous federal government shutdowns, though it were was by the state government shutdown two years ago.

In the long run, however, failure by Congress to pass a budget creates uncertainty that makes longer-range planning difficult.

“In the longer run, without a budget we’re operating on an assumed budget,” Goltz said. “The thing with Head Start is, we are still held to the same standards in quality, outcomes, enrollment, meals, minimum hours of operation and transportation. It’s hard to plan, it’s hard on staff, hard on morale.”

The federally-funded WIC program, provides nutrition assistance to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, babies and young children and is administered through the Minnesota Department of Health.

“Right now, we’ve been getting directives from the Minnesota Department of Health,” said Kristin Deacon, nursing supervisor with the area WIC program. “Our directive is to stay open. We’re continuing to see clients and keep appointments as usual. We’re monitoring the situation and continue to follow the directives of the Minnesota Department of Health.”