Sequestration cuts could hit Dubuque Head Start preschools - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sequestration cuts could hit Dubuque Head Start preschools

Students at a Dubuque Head Start Students at a Dubuque Head Start

Cities and government-funded agencies throughout eastern Iowa and the U.S. continue to wait anxiously to see exactly how federal budget cuts, known as the sequestration, will negatively impact them.

At a media conference Thursday afternoon, Dubuque community leaders gathered to discuss potential cuts, ranging from continuing adult education programs to Section 8 housing vouchers.

The bottom line, they said, is that the community's most vulnerable members are at the highest risk of feeling the cuts.

Head Start, for example, is a national program offering free preschool to families that fall at or below the federal poverty level.

At the St. John's Head Start location in Dubuque Thursday afternoon, teacher associate Kari Tobin was helping her students decorate paper Easter eggs.

"Preschool's expensive," she said. "Daycare's expensive. And not everybody has the funds to be able to afford it. (With) this, we're giving them that option that they don't have to pay."

Operation New View in Dubuque is the organization that oversees the 17 Head Start locations throughout Dubuque, Delaware and Jackson counties. It has funding for 284 Head Start students.

"You know, if it's between, 'I'm choosing between paying for preschool' versus 'I'm going to pay my bills this month,' this is one less thing they have to worry about," Tobin said.

Thanks to sequestration, however, Operation New View faces cutting the number of kids it can serve by 25, plus ending the Head Start school year two weeks early and starting it back up in the fall two weeks late.

Operation New View executive director addressed this at Thursday's media conference at Northeast Iowa Community College's Town Clock Center in Dubuque.

"In essence, we're gong to furlough all those kids for probably about four weeks in order to make up the shortfall, which leaves them without the program that touches their lives," he said.

Potential sequestration cuts that could affect the Dubuque community also include some continuing education programs at Northeast Iowa Community College, said NICC economic development services division vice president Wendy Mihm-Herold.

"When there's cuts in the Workforce Investment Act or cuts in the Federal Pell Grant funding to help them get back to school, it affects their ability to get the skills they need to meet the middle skills and get back into job opportunities," she said at the conference.

Cuts in Dubuque also include new Section 8 housing vouchers.

"Two weeks ago, people that finally got to the top of the list came for orientation (and) had to be told, 'This is on hold, unfortunately,'" Dubuque city council member Lynn Sutton said. "So we can't proceed forward until we know where the cuts are, because we could give you that apartment, but then how are you going to be able to pay for that?"

It seems it's now a game of waiting where none of the possible outcomes are good.

Dubuque's media conference isn't one-of-a-kind. Across Iowa, local organizations are getting the word out about the potential negative impacts of sequestration.

Those at the conference encouraged anybody concerned about the possible negative impacts of the cuts to contact their congressional representatives.

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