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Families Receiving Calfresh Benefits Now Eligible for Head Start Early Learning Programs

Downey, Calif. - On Thursday, the Office of Head Start announced it would expand its definition of public assistance to include families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In California this includes families currently eligible for CalFresh assistance. The change will remove significant barriers from the application process for families receiving SNAP, increasing access to Head Start early learning programs.

“This is a win towards equitable access to early learning opportunities for the many families in Los Angeles County confronted with food insecurity,” said Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, MSW, Ed.D. “Providing young children with a quality early education should not be an additional burden, but an exciting milestone that families can celebrate. We applaud the Office of Head Start for taking this important action.”

The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) has advocated for this change for several years. While the Head Start Act prescribes eligibility for families receiving public assistance, the term is not defined in statute or regulations, and in practice only included Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). LACOE made the case that SNAP should also be included, and now the Office of Head Start has agreed. As nearly half of Head Start participants also receive SNAP benefits, accepting SNAP enrollment as proof of Head Start eligibility represents a significant streamlining of the eligibility determination process.

The effort was led by Executive Director of LACOE Head Start and Early Learning Division Keesha Woods. “Families are more stressed than ever before trying to stay afloat, and this action will help us to reach more families while also reducing the burden on those families to enroll. We thank the Office of Head Start for taking this bold step to support families,” Woods said.

Dr. Duardo applauded the efforts of many individuals and organizations whose efforts contributed to this tremendous win for families and programs, including the National Head Start Association, Head Start California, and the elected officials who supported this effort, including Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Senator Maggie Hassan, who led letters advocating for this change, and Senator Alex Padilla.

“With 90 percent of brain development taking place in the first five years of a child’s life, Head Start has a tremendous life-long impact on children and their families,” Superintendent Duardo said. “This action to ease entry into the Head Start program will bring enormous benefits to our communities most in need.”


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