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Head Start employees take a hit but program is not cut

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CANTON — Head Start programming in St. Lawrence County will not be reduced despite the loss of nearly $150,000 from the federal sequestration but employees will file for unemployment during vacation breaks instead of being paid for the time off by the Community Development Program.

“Nobody’s happy to be losing dollars out of our pockets but we have great employees who are dedicated to the children,” said Norma S. Cary, CDP executive director. “We didn’t want to lose programming for children and families.”

Head Start is a federal program that prepares children of low-income families to be ready for school. It was one of the first poverty programs from the 1960s.

CDP used to pay Head Start employees for vacation during the school year, such as during spring break, but asked the majority of its 90 staff members to collect unemployment for those periods instead.

CDP provides Head Start for 351 children and their families at centers in Gouverneur, Ogdensburg, Potsdam, Canton, Massena, Parishville, Brasher Falls and Norwood.

It also serves 120 children and their families in a home-based program. Annual funding was at slightly more than $2.8 million.

Under federal sequestration, the program expected a cut of 5 percent, which turned out to be 5.27 percent for a total of $148,660.

“They’re saying plan on it for another year,” Ms. Cary said. “We’ve been flat funded for a number of years. When you stay stagnant in your funding, it makes it even harder to come up with that $148,000.”

Meanwhile, expenses have gone up for such things as food and transportation.

The agency expects to also struggle with the increase of the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8 per hour.

“Philosophically, we want to see that happen but it’s hard to see in our budget,” Ms. Cary said.

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