RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Could U.S. House Republicans’ plan to end the federal debt limit standoff wind up leaving thousands of families in North Carolina without child care?
U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat whose Congressional district includes northern Wake County, says the plan championed by Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would lead to massive cuts for one federal program.
THE CLAIM: Ross said that “what we passed in the House would cut more than 20% from Head Start.”
THE FACTS: Those numbers come from the White House, which issued detailed breakdowns to lay out what House Republicans’ plan would mean for each state.
The Office of Management and Budget says that plan would set fiscal 2024 discretionary spending equal to fiscal 2022 spending levels, then cap annual spending growth at 1% over the next decade.
The White House says it would result in 22% cuts to non-defense spending, and those ripples would stretch far and wide — all the way to North Carolina’s Head Start programs.
The Biden Administration says the plan would mean 5,300 children across the state would lose access to Head Start slots.
Jenna Nelson, the executive director of the North Carolina Early Education Coalition — the only statewide advocacy group focused on child care — says those numbers are credible.
“Losing 5,000 slots in North Carolina would be devastating since we’re already on the cusp of a child-care collapse,” she said.
About 21,000 children in North Carolina were enrolled in Head Start programs in 2021, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures.
Reducing that by 5,300 would amount to a cut of about 25%.
Head Start is available for children between the ages of 3 and 5 who come from low-income families or those receiving public assistance, are in foster care or homeless.
“We know that these young children are already at risk because they live in low-income households, and Head Start provides that stability, that nurturing environment for those young children that they would then lose access to,” Nelson said.
And such a massive cut could lead to a domino effect that could affect a wide swath of the state’s population of nearly 10.7 million.
“It really impacts all of us,” she said. “We just don’t necessarily know it.”
Those 5,000 children who would be taken out of Head Start would have to be cared for by someone — family members who would have to quit their jobs, take on reduced hours or call out sick more frequently to watch them.
“So then that impacts the business owners, and then that impacts the rest of us who need those businesses to be open,” Nelson said. “And so it’s a big, big community problem.”