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Head Start Programs To Receive $10 Million To Reopen During Government Shutdown

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- National Head Start Association officials say a donation of up to $10 million from two philanthropists will help keep the preschool programs running during the federal government shutdown.

NHSA officials said in a release Monday that Laura and John Arnold's donation will help serve more than 7,000 low-income children while the government shutdown continues.

Programs in Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, South Carolina and Missouri were closed at the end of the first week of the shutdown. NHSA officials say the programs have been allocated federal funding, but administrators are blocked from accessing the money because of the stalemate in Washington.

National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci called the Arnolds' donation selfless, and said the program is grateful they stepped forward to keep classrooms open.

"The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children,'' Vinci said in a statement. "Our elected officials simply must find a fiscal solution that protects, preserves and promotes the promise that quality early learning opportunities like Head Start offer to nearly one million at-risk children each year."

As CBS 2's Amy Dardashtian reported, the closures forced about 1,000 disadvantaged preschool children in Connecticut out of their classrooms and caused a ripple effect among their families.

"These people are struggling," said Bill Bevacqua, director of Action for Bridgeport Community Development. "They can't afford private day care centers because private day care runs anywhere from $250 to $300 a week."

The closure has been frustrating for parents such as Melanie Rhodes, whose 4-year-old son, Malachi, is autistic. She attributes his progress to the Head Start program in Bridgeport, Conn.

"One day, I'd like for him to be independent," she said.

But the effects of the Head Start closures have extended beyond the schools themselves.

With no day care available to them, some parents have chosen not to go to work, which means lost income.

"Some days, he eats, and I go without eating," Rhodes said.

Also, low-income families rely on the Head Start program to give their children breakfast and lunch every day. As a result of the closures, food banks have grown more crowded.

"I represent the parents who are struggling," Rhodes said. "We're not lazy, we're not on drugs, we don't do alcohol or anything like that. We're trying to take care of our children and to raise our children the right way."

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