Couple donates $10 million, keeps Head Start open during government shutdown

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Philanthropists Laura and John Arnold have offered up to $10 million in emergency funding to the National Head Start Association in an effort to keep them open during the government shutdown.

The personal donation will help keep Head Start and Early Head Start programs, who were forced to close or are facing closure, open. The programs service more than 1 million low-income children each year, providing them with meals and health care and getting them ready for elementary school.

On October 1st, 23 programs in 11 states, servicing over 19,000 children were to be funded and are expected to lose that money.

“For nearly fifty years, Head Start has been the window of opportunity for more than 27 million of our nation’s poorest children as they embark on their journey to achieve the American Dream,” said Yasmina Vinci, Executive Director of the National Head Start Association. “The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

According to an NHSA press release, the Arnolds offered assistance after learning about the government shutdown’s paralyzing impact on Head Start programs. Following the government shutdown, if Head Start programs receive funding for a 52-week period, Head Start programs will begin to repay the funds from NHSA at no interest through the Arnolds.

“The entire Head Start community and the at-risk children we serve are tremendously grateful to the Arnolds for their compassion and generosity,” Vinci said. “The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children. Our elected officials simply must find a fiscal solution that protects, preserves and promotes the promise that quality early learning opportunities like Head Start offer to nearly one million at-risk children each year.”

The Arnolds are not conducting interviews at this time, but they did release this statement through their publicist:

“Like everyone else, we are disappointed in the stalemate that has led to the federal government’s shutdown. Our representatives’ inability to resolve their differences has caused severe disruptions in the lives of many low-income Americans.  We believe that it is especially unfair that young children from underprivileged communities and working families pay the price for the legislature’s collective failures. In an effort to address this injustice, we will help keep the doors open at Head Start programs across the country this month. We sincerely hope that our government gets back to work in short order, as private dollars cannot in the long term replace government commitments.”

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