PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials with the Aroostook County Action Program will use a sizable grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enhance their Head Start program.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation announced last week that the DHHS would allocate $494,375 to Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Aroostook, Androscoggin and York counties.
Head Start is a federal early childhood education program for low-income children. More than 25 million preschoolers across the nation have benefited from Head Start, according to the DHHS.
The Head Start funding was distributed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. ACAP in Presque Isle will receive $142,972.
In the region, ACAP, along with Head Start, provides employment and training services, energy and housing assistance, health services and various other programs.
Laurie Nelson, assistant director of child and family services at ACAP, said Wednesday afternoon that the $142,972 will be used to enhance services the organization offers.
Nelson said ACAP’s Head Start budget has been flat funded for several years. The program, which serves an estimated 271 children in The County, will use the additional cash to restore some old programs that had been subject to cuts.
“That will help us provide even more support for children and families,” said Nelson.
The money also will be used to help further the education of teachers who work with the students and provide funding for a software program. Nelson said the software will help gather data to help assess ACAP’s services and perform other tasks.
“This money is going to help improve our programs,” she added. “Our staff will receive higher education that will help improve their work with children and families.”
U.S. 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud said in a statement that he was pleased to hear that Maine would receive the funding.
“This announcement is welcome news for families who depend on Head Start programs,” said Michaud.
He added that such early childhood education “provides the necessary building blocks for America’s youngest children.”
U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins said in a joint statement, “For decades, Maine has played host to numerous community development organizations that serve to improve the quality of life for low-income families. Within these organizations, Head Start programs target the youngest members of our communities and serve as steppingstones to greater educational opportunities.”
In addition to ACAP, Androscoggin Head Start and Childcare in Lewiston received $175,169, and the York County Community Action Corp. in Sanford received $176,234.