COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Funding and Administrative Flexibilities

Most Head Start sites and communities have been closed for several weeks and may remain closed for some time. OHS expects programs to take actions that are feasible, reasonable, and safe in terms of continuing to provide services and implementing management and oversight systems. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $750 million for programs under the Head Start Act to support preventative, preparedness, and responsive activities during the pandemic. Several administrative flexibilities are available to Head Start grantees during the COVID-19 emergency. Programs should maintain documentation to address any variations in their normal fiscal practices made to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. This section is regularly updated with the most relevant guidance and resources. All published resources are listed under Recent Updates.

Funding

The CARES Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-136), made available $750 million for programs under the Head Start Act, which includes up to $500 million for the purpose of operating supplemental summer programs. All CARES Act funding, including for voluntary summer programs, will be distributed as one-time funding by formula based on each grantee's funded enrollment. OHS provides updated guidance so all grantees can respond to the unique and constantly evolving circumstances within their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic in ACF-PI-HS-20-04 Update to Funding for FY 2020 Supplemental Funds in Response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Administrative Flexibilities

OHS will not hold programs accountable for requirements such as screenings, assessments, data collections, and enrollment that are not possible or reasonable for them to achieve during the current closures. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19, the 2019–2020 Program Information Report (PIR) will not be required this year. OHS wants to eliminate the reporting burden of the PIR, as well as remove any confusion on how certain elements of the PIR could be collected and interpreted when programs are closed.

OHS expects programs to maintain records of services they provided and those that were not provided. Many grantees have found it helpful to join the MyPeers community to discuss particular situations with their colleagues.

Please be advised that no Head Start requirement or HSPPS will be waived where failure to comply results in unreasonable risk to the health and safety of children, or constitutes fraud or misuse of federal funds. Grantees must be able to assure the safety of children in their care and financial accountability for funds and property.

ACF-IM-HS-20-03 Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Fiscal Flexibilities provides guidance related to fiscal flexibilities and waivers affecting grant applications, no-cost extensions, allowable costs, extension of certain deadlines, procurement, prior approvals, indirect cost rates, and single audit submissions.

In addition, the guidance from ACF-HS-IM-19-01 General Disaster Recovery Flexibilities applies to programs impacted by COVID-19. Although there are no formal waivers for the number of days of service provided via center-based programs, or number of home visits and socializations provided via home-based programs, programs will not be expected to make up the days missed due to COVID-19.

The following waivers are available, as provided in the Head Start Act:

  • Programs may request a waiver of all or part of their 20% non-federal share based on emergency or disaster because other organizations may not be able to provide the usual contributions to Head Start grantees during this time.
  • Programs may request a waiver of the 15% administrative cost limitation if additional program management attention is needed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Procurement may be undertaken without utilizing the grantee's usual competitive practices if necessary to respond to COVID-19.

Q&A

Q: How will programs be held accountable for requirements such as screenings, assessments, data collections, and enrollment?
A: Most Head Start sites and communities have been closed for several weeks and may remain closed for some time. OHS expects programs to take actions that are feasible, reasonable, and safe in terms of continuing to provide services and implementing management and oversight systems. OHS will not hold programs accountable for requirements that are not possible or reasonable for them to achieve during the current closures. OHS expects programs to maintain records of services they provided and those that were not provided. Many grantees have found it helpful to join the MyPeers community to discuss particular situations with their colleagues.

Please be advised that no Head Start requirement or HSPPS will be waived where failure to comply results in unreasonable risk to the health and safety of children, or constitutes fraud or misuse of federal funds. Grantees must be able to assure the safety of children in their care and financial accountability for funds and property.