OHS Expands Head Start Eligibility to Include SNAP

Head Start California welcomes today’s announcement by the Office of Head Start to expand its definition of public assistance to include families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This change will dramatically improve the ability of Head Start programs to continue to serve California’s most vulnerable children aged 0 to 5 and their families by eliminating barriers to accessing high-quality childcare.

For many years, Head Start has allowed eligibility for families who receive ‘public assistance.’ However, the definition of ‘public assistance’ has been limited to only a few programs, leaving many vulnerable families without access to the needed services that Head Start provides. By expanding the definition of “public assistance” to include SNAP benefits, Head Start programs nationwide will be able to serve additional children.

This effort was initiated by Keesha Woods, Executive Director of the Head Start and Early Learning Division at the Los Angeles County Office of Education more than two years ago. Head Start California shared her proposal with other state Head Start Associations and the National Head Start Association, who then submitted a joint letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of all state and regional Head Start associations. Recently, several members of Congress wrote letters to support the proposal.

This heartening outcome is a game-changer, and a testament to the vision and collective voice of the Head Start community. The entire Head Start community, and thousands of children and families, are indebted to Keesha Woods for her leadership.

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