State grants' loss could end Head Start, RurAL CAP programs
Gov. MIke Dunleavy's proposed budget could have a big impact on early-childhood development programs, many of which depend on state funding to secure federal dollars.
At RurAL CAP, which offers a number of early-childhood programs, CEO Patrick Anderson outlines the dilemma.
"The problem with it is our federal funding requires matching funds," Anderson said. "We get 6 million dollars in federal grants and 2.6 (million) from the state. So, without the state grants our federal 6 million dollars would go away."
Head Start and RurAL CAP programs operate the same way as pre-kindergarten programs, preparing young children to enter the school system. The main difference is that they cater to children who may have some risk to their healthy growth and development, such as living in poverty or homelessness.
Both Head Start and RurAL CAP also help identify other issues that may need tending to, in order to help children and their families stay on the path to success.
"You may have children with unattended health needs," said Dirk Shumaker, Kids Corps Inc.'s executive director. "They may have dental cavities that maybe weren't treated, so they are going through kindergarten with dental pain for three months – and what kind of an impact does that have on their learning?"
Defunding Head Start could affect up to a third of the 684 children RurAL CAP currently serves statewide, leaving about 230 low-income children without access to the program.
"Food insecurity," Shumaker said. "One of the things we do with families is connect them and give them resources, so children aren't going to school hungry."
In addition, RurAL CAP’s Supportive Housing Division helps low-income and vulnerable Alaskans address problems ranging from homelessness, disability and unemployment to drug or alcohol addiction and mental illness.
"A portion of our budget also comes from the Medicaid aspect," Anderson said. "We're still trying to understand what that component means in the governor's budget as far as our behavioral health component."
RurAL CAP and Head Start are in 24 communities across Alaska, with $6 million tied into housing and facilities across the state.
"We're a small part of the budget but a big part of rural Alaska," Anderson said. "This would affect real lives in rural Alaska, communities and families."
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