A total of $21 million awarded this year will support early education programs at 29 locations throughout Buffalo and Erie County
Congressman Brian Higgins and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced a federal grant totaling $21,029,578 for Community Action Organization of Erie County Inc. to support early childhood education programs in Erie County. The funding, announced jointly with CAO President and CEO L. Nathan Hare, as well as CAO Early Childhood Administrator Phyllis McBride, was awarded through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Office of Head Start. A total of $13,669,226 was awarded to CAO this week with $7.36 million authorized earlier this year.
"We know that a great deal is gained when we start education early, setting children on a positive path for learning at a young age to prevent students from falling behind, or worse, falling off the tracks completely," Higgins said. "Through this federal grant CAO can continue their good work engaging kids and families in an appreciation for lifelong learning from the onset, passing along the most powerful tool we have to fight poverty in our neighborhoods and improve opportunity for our youth: a quality education."
"This is a smart investment that can help give more Erie County children the chance they deserve to start out strong, and go as far as their own hard work will take them," Gillibrand said. "These federal dollars for the Community Action Organization of Erie County will help this strong organization deliver quality education, access to food and other critical services that our children and families deserve."
The Head Start grant will support comprehensive early childhood services to 2,188 infants, toddlers and preschool children and their families. These services will be delivered by CAO at 29 Head Start/Early Head Start academies across Erie County.
CAO Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of low-income children from age 3 to age 5 through the provision of educational, health, mental health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families.
Hare said, "Of all the initiatives provided by or through the CAO, our Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide the greatest sense of accomplishment. The successful education of our children is the surest path out of poverty for them, as individuals, and for the cycle of poverty that afflicts so many families. Through the leadership and advocacy of Congressman Higgins, Sen. Gillibrand and many others, the Head Start/Early Head Start program will continue to change the course of these children's lives, and, for many, the course of all of our futures."
Head Start and Early Head Start is based on a national model that promotes school readiness among low-income families with a particular focus on language and literacy, as well as cognition and development. In addition to the human impact, Head Start has a positive economic impact in communities that offer the programs. A study conducted in California showed that, for every dollar invested in Head Start, $9 is created in return through increased earnings, employment, family stability, decreased government assistance, crime and special education costs. When compared to their peers, children who participated in Head Start are more likely to compete academically in high school and attend college after they graduate.
The CAO provides a vast array of assistance, ranging from housing and employment to family development and youth and senior programs. These efforts are also supported by federal funding through the Erie County share of the Community Services Block Grant program.
The Community Action Organization of Erie County Inc. was organized in 1965 as one of about 1,600 "Community Action Agencies" across the country established to wage what former President Lyndon B. Johnson referred to as a "War on Poverty." Throughout the years, the CAO has remained committed to its mission: to promote opportunities for low-income individuals, families and communities to achieve and sustain self-sufficiency through advocacy, partnerships, access to services and low-to-moderate income housing development.