The 2022 National Head Start Association (NHSA) Fall Leadership Institute took place September 19-22 in Washington, DC. It was a welcome opportunity to see colleagues in person, as the last couple of years it has taken place virtually. One aspect of the conference that was particularly interesting from the funding perspective was Updates from the Office of Head Start. We learned about big picture and program-specific funding opportunities.

As always, we pay particular attention to updates on budget projections and forecasts for grant opportunities so that we can share these highlights with the Head Start/Early Head Start community. Below is a summary of key funding updates shared by NHSA leadership and federal partners, including Office of Head Start (OHS) staff.

Fiscal Year 2023 Head Start Budget: While the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget is still in the works, early estimates suggest there could be improvements in funding for Head Start programs as well as new opportunities on the horizon. We learned that both the FY23 House and Senate bills include an increase of at least $1 billion for Head Start. Both also include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) of $596 million (this is more than a 5% increase over grantee’s FY22 level) and there is a $262 million investment in Quality Improvement. Expansion money is included in each bill as well, though at differing levels. Stay tuned for more information as the federal budget process moves forward.

COVID Relief Funding: Three initiatives continue to support Head Start/Early Head Start programs with COVID relief: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, 2020 (CARES), Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) and American Rescue Plan Act, 2021 (ARP). OHS urged programs to continue to draw down these funds to support their program, and reminded attendees that the deadlines for spending vary for each grant and depending on a program’s grant cycle. CARES funding, for example, is tied to a program’s grant cycle, while CRRSA and ARP have deadlines of March 31, 2023.

Workforce Compensation: On the note of COVID relief funding, OHS reminded programs that they can offer bonuses, short-term pay increases, and other financial incentives to program staff using ARP funds, other COVID relief funds, or base operating funds. OHS stressed the importance of programs implementing strategies to stabilize the Head Start workforce, which may include more permanent solutions to increasing staff compensation in programs; for example, reorganization, requesting a reduction in funded enrollment, consolidating grants. (Workforce compensation and enrollment are two of the most pressing issues in Head Start. In a future blog post, we’ll provide a detailed look at these topics. Stay tuned!)

National Head Start Fellowship Program: This grant opportunity is forecasted on and the estimated posting date of the funding announcement is October 2022. There is $1 million in grant funding available for awards. OHS described the Fellowship Program as bringing together experienced and dedicated professionals to create a new cadre of leaders who support OHS in developing and implementing long-term quality improvement initiatives.

Competitive DRS Grants: OHS announced that DRS grant competitions will open this fall. Grant competitions will be for service areas Puerto Rico and in seven states: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. OHS indicated that DRS grant competitions will forecasted on in October and will post in November. A second round of DRS grant competitions will take place during the winter. This will be for programs currently operated by CDI. If your program plans to compete for funding in DRS, consider subscribing to our DRS Updates blog for specific and time-sensitive updates.

Funding updates will continue to evolve as the federal budget process moves forward. NHSA’s Center on Policy is a great resource to follow for updates on Head Start funding, and we’ll continue to provide updates here. If your program is considering a conversion or preparing for a grant competition, we can help. Foundations for Families team members provide grant writing services and conduct wage studies and community assessments. Explore our Consulting Services and please contact us to learn more.

Thank you.

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