COVID-19 and the Head Start Community


Extended closures have impacted Head Start programs’ eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment, and attendance (ERSEA) strategies. Head Start and Early Head Start programs should continue reporting monthly enrollment.  This section is regularly updated with the most relevant guidance and resources. All published resources are listed under Recent Updates.

Enrollment Reporting

The Office of Head Start (OHS) expects programs to continue reporting monthly enrollment in the Head Start Enterprise System (HSES). During program closures, programs should continue to provide services to enrolled children and families using technology and other creative means, to the extent possible. Even if the program has not been able to engage a family during this time, OHS expects that programs would consider that slot enrolled, unless the family has told the program they will not return. When reporting monthly enrollment, grantees should continue to enter the number of children enrolled on the last operating day of the month. 

During this uncertain time, reported enrollment figures will not be considered in determining a grantee's enrollment status. OHS will continue to monitor monthly enrollment, but will pause its evaluation of under- or fully enrolled grantees until operations resume.

Grantees currently participating in the Full Enrollment Initiative can reference enrollment inquiries and flexibilities according to each stage of the process.


Identifying eligible families now will support reaching full enrollment when operations resume. OHS understands the challenges associated with recruiting eligible children and families at this time. Programs are using technology and other creative methods to reach families and continue recruitment activities while prioritizing the staff and community's health and safety. 

A program may enroll eligible children from waitlists, if there is adequate documentation on file to verify a child's eligibility and there are services your program can provide to benefit the eligible child and family. If there are vacancies, a program may enroll eligible children even if they haven’t been physically present and the center or received one home visit. Programs should provide and document these services until operations resume and the enrollment process can be completed.

OHS does not consider CARES Act payments or "stimulus payments," officially called Recovery Rebates, as income for program eligibility determination. The CARES Act Recovery Rebates are refundable tax credits paid in advance and therefore not considered income. Emergency unemployment compensation payments established by the CARES Act are also excluded when establishing Head Start income eligibility. The CARES Act payments are new short-term, federally funded assistance directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus are treated differently than regular unemployment compensation for purposes of Head Start eligibility.

ERSEA: Strategies During a Pandemic

Extended closures due to a pandemic can make programs rethink their ERSEA strategies. Programs may need to modify their recruitment and selection activities. Changing demographics may require eligibility criteria to evolve (e.g., increased numbers of eligible families, changes to recruitment and service areas). This tip sheet can help guide ERSEA planning and service delivery during times of transition.

This information is drawn from the Full Enrollment Policy Questions and Answers (Q&As), the Volume May 21, 2020 Q&As, and ERSEA: Strategies During a Pandemic.