Sequestration, Budgets, and Continuing Resolutions: The Story Continues

April 01, 2013

By Stephanie Schmit

Recently, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the work of the federal government through the remainder of fiscal year 2013 (FY13). The CR contained small increases for both child care ($50 million) and Head Start ($33.5 million). For child care, it is estimated that the additional funds will serve 9,000 children and help to lessen the blow of the estimated sequestration cuts still in place. However, for Head Start most additional funds are for activities related to the designation renewal systems, also known as re-competition, and will not fund many additional slots.

Unfortunately, the CR did not eliminate sequestration.Therefore, harmful cuts from the sequestration will continue to affect children and families across the country as Head Start and child care programs cut their 2013 budgets by about 5 percent by reducing the number of children served, cutting back schedules, and making many other difficult choices.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released an official report outlining the amount of funding cut from each program due to sequestration,  and while programs will be impacted at different times and in different ways, there is no doubt that the shock will be tremendous. Like many non-defense discretionary programs, cuts to child care and early education programs resulting from sequestration will have detrimental effects on children and families.

Official reports about sequestration outline a $115 million cut to the Child Care and Development Block (CCDBG) which funds child care subsidies, along with a $400 million reduction for Head Start. Estimates show that this will translate into 30,000 fewer children being served by the child care subsidy program and 70,000 fewer children being served through Head Start.

The Office of Head Start has issued a Program Instruction (PI) document that broadly outlines what the sequestration cuts will mean for grantees. The PI advises programs to begin planning to operate with a smaller budget immediately and to keep the following principles in mind when doing so:

  • The first priority for all programs is to maintain a high quality of service provided to children and families and to ensure their health and safety.
  • It is critical to minimize disruptions to currently enrolled children for this program year.
  • We expect enrollment reductions, as well as workforce reductions, particularly in the upcoming program year.

Head Start funding is complicated since program years and subsequent funding commence at various times throughout the year. The National Head Start Association has developed a "Frequently Asked Questions" page to help explain how this will all work and what this means for Head Start programs and the children and families who attend them. 

The Office of Child Care has not yet released any guidance on implementing CCDBG sequestration cuts.

Congress still has options to avert the devastating effects of sequestration through a "grand bargain"--a bipartisan agreement that reduces the federal deficit by raising revenue and cutting spending--or in the FY 2014 budget. We must ensure that members of Congress keep children at the forefront of their minds when making decisions, otherwise, children will lose access to important early education programs, their parents and teachers may lose their jobs, and many people will lose access to necessary benefits. In a recovering economy, this is something we simply cannot have.

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