COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Responding to COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has deeply impacted Head Start and Early Head Start programs, enrolled children and families, and their communities.  This section is regularly updated with guidance and resources from the Office of Head Start (OHS) to help all programs support staff, children, and families during this challenging time. 

Latest Updates

5/29/2020: ACF and HRSA Joint Letter to Promote Family Strengthening and Virtual Primary Prevention [PDF, 62MB]

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) issue a joint letter to colleagues on how to support families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5/22/2020: Fiscal Management During the COVID-19 Emergency

OHS leadership discusses dissemination of the CARES Act supplemental funds. They also address strategies and flexibilities for fiscal management programs should employ while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5/21/2020: Responding to Head Start Grantee Questions on COVID-19: Volume May 21, 2020

OHS is empowering grantee leadership to make decisions that support Head Start children and families first during the COVID-19 pandemic. Review questions and answers from grantees seeking approval for local decisions about operations.

5/21/2020: ACF-PI-HS-20-04 Update to Funding for FY 2020 Supplemental Funds in Response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Review updated funding instructions that provide greater flexibility so all grantees can respond to the unique and constantly evolving circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. This supersedes ACF-PI-HS-20-03.

5/21/2020:  ACF-IM-HS-20-03 Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Fiscal Flexibilities

This Information Memorandum (IM) describes how OHS is implementing each item from ACF Grant Flexibilities in Conducting Human Service Activities Related to or Affected by COVID-19. Please note that some items are implemented by OHS as issued by ACF and others are implemented with noted program-specific guidance.

5/12/2020: Stay Connected to Decrease Family Stress in Difficult Times

In this video, Dr. Bergeron is joined by Kiersten Beigel, family and community partnerships specialist at OHS. They discuss how to partner with families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Offering compassion, connection, and care can decrease parental stress. Addressing immediate stressors related to food, rent support, or healthcare can also help. Dr. B and Kiersten suggest ways programs can find out what is going on with children at home.

5/11/2020: Supporting Food Security for Families

Many Head Start families are struggling with food insecurity during the COVID-19 emergency. To meet the needs of school-aged children, the USDA is coordinating several efforts which may apply to siblings of Head Start children.

5/6/2020: Caring for Children in Group Settings During COVID-19: A Follow-up Conversation (Webinar)

This question-and-answer chat is a follow-up to the Caring for Children in Group Settings During COVID-19 webinar. Michele Cheung, MD, FAAP, a pediatric infectious disease expert, joined Marco Beltran from OHS to apply available guidance to ECE programs.

4/28/2020: COVID-19 Check-In

In this video, Dr. Bergeron shares the unique and creative ways Head Start staff are supporting children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also delves into some Early Head Start program strategies and encourages staff to take care of themselves during this difficult time. Encouraging parent-child relationships is key, as well as communicating with simplicity and engaging in routine activities. Comfort, love, and support are the best remedies for children who might regress in achieving goals as a result of COVID-19. As always, Dr. B shares a love note to workers making a difference in the lives of babies and toddlers all over the country.

4/24/2020: Caring for Children in Group Settings During COVID-19 (Webinar)

Early care and education (ECE) programs have many questions about how to keep children and staff healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidance for open programs is now available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This webinar also highlights the guidance and best practices in preventing the spread of disease from Caring for Our Children. Register again to view the webinar replay.

4/23/2020: ECLKC Resources to Support Professional Development for Education Staff (Email)

Discover resources on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) that education staff can use to support their professional development during center closures and while social distancing.

4/23/2020: Supporting Emergency Child Care During the COVID-19 Crisis: How Head Start and Early Head Start Programs Can Help (Email)

Find clarification on how programs can support, when possible, the use of closed Head Start centers as temporary child care centers for medical personnel and essential workers. By law, Head Start funds can only be used to provide Head Start services to eligible children and families. However, Head Start facilities, equipment, materials, and supplies can be used to support emergency child care, subject to cost reimbursement or replacement. Head Start staff may also have the option to support emergency child care operations in addition to the work they are doing to continue Head Start services.

4/21/2020: Partnering with Families to Improve Economic Stability During and After COVID-19 (Email)

Many Head Start and Early Head Start families are affected with job loss and other community impacts related to COVID-19. Learn more about the steps programs can take, now and in the future, to improve families' financial stability.

4/20/2020: Full Enrollment Policy Questions and Answers (Q&As) (Email)

4/14/2020: ACF-PI-HS-20-03 FY 2020 Supplemental Funds in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

This Program Instruction (PI) provides information about supplemental funds available for Head Start programs in response to COVID-19. It describes the purpose, eligibility, and application process for supplemental summer programs and one-time activities in response to COVID-19.

4/6/2020: Update to Wages and Benefits Flexibility During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Email)

In recognition of the unique circumstances associated with COVID-19, OHS is directing programs to continue to pay wages and provide benefits for staff unable to report to work during center closures necessary to address COVID-19. This directive does not apply to non-COVID-19 related program closures during which employees would not otherwise be paid, such as summer breaks. 

This flexibility remains in effect through June 30, 2020 or the date upon which programs reopen for center-based services, and employees return to regularly scheduled onsite work, if sooner. OHS will continue to monitor program closures and may adjust the effective date of this flexibility as needed.

4/6/2020: CARES Act Funding to Support Head Start Children, Families, and Programs (Webinar)

Watch as OHS leadership discuss new funding to support needs related to COVID-19. They respond to questions about the purpose of these funds and how to apply.

4/2/2020: Responding to Grantee Questions on COVID-19: Updated March 31, 2020

Explore these questions and responses to common grantee concerns regarding program closure, staff pay and benefits, available flexibilities, and program monitoring.

4/1/2020: Serving Needs Beyond Head Start (Email)

Many grantees are asking questions and seeking approval for local decisions about operations. OHS is empowering grantee leadership to make decisions that support Head Start children and families first, and also help others in need.

3/31/2020: ACF Grant Flexibilities in Conducting Human Services Activities Related to or Affected By COVID-19 (Email)

With this email, the Administration for Children and Families is transmitting IM-ACF-OA-2020-01 [PDF, 192KB] dealing with grant flexibilities in conducting human service activities related to or affected by COVID-19.

3/24/2020: MyPeers Can Support Virtual Work During COVID-19 (Webinar)

Watch this webinar to discover ways to minimize face-to-face contact and travel as your program responds to COVID-19.

3/24/2020: Temporarily Repurposing Head Start and Early Head Start Centers: Partnering to Support Emergency Child Care During the COVID-19 Crisis (Email)

OHS has received many inquiries about temporarily repurposing Head Start and Early Head Start centers closed due to COVID-19 to provide child care primarily for children of medical staff and others engaged in responding to the COVID-19 emergency. To support programs in their decision-making about taking on responsibilities beyond their Head Start population, OHS has developed a set of frequently asked questions, which address some regulatory issues, health and safety concerns, and matters of capacity and liability.

3/18/2020: MyPeers Can Support Virtual Work During COVID-19 (Email)

Discover ways to minimize face-to-face contact and travel as your program responds to COVID-19. MyPeers can help program management and staff work remotely by creating a private workgroup for your agency. Use it to hold group chats, share documents and resources, post questions, and even screenshare from the privacy of your own home. Members can access MyPeers via desktop or use the app on their smartphone or tablet.

3/17/2020: Supporting Grantee Leadership Regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Webinar)

Hear from OHS leadership as they discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on grantee operations. They offer clarifying information and respond to questions from the Head Start community on recently published (at the time of the webinar) COVID-19 prevention and response information.

3/13/20: Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Flexibilities (Email)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has waived its group setting meal requirement for closed schools and authorized special flexibilities for many states. Grantees may work with their state CACFP agency to determine whether similar flexibilities that can support the ongoing availability of meals and snacks for enrolled children are available during Head Start and Early Head Start program closures. 

3/13/2020: Managing Infectious Disease (Video blog)

Dr. Bergeron and Dr. Marco Beltran discuss strategies for managing infectious disease. Head Start programs can follow local guidance and use federal guidance to support their decision-making.

3/13/2020: COVID-19 Wages and Benefit (Email)

In addition to the general flexibilities in ACF-IM-HS-19-01, OHS is providing the additional flexibility regarding wage and benefits for employees impacted by COVID-19 closures.

3/12/20: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) COVID-19 Funding and Guidance (Email)

A number of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) divisions, including OHS, are releasing COVID-19-related information on funding and guidance. Review information on key issues to keep you up to date (at the time of release).