By William K. Alcorn
The Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership has lost its Head Start/Early Head Start program after being disqualified from a federal food-service grant.
As a result, eight employees have been laid off, and more layoffs are likely, said Ben McGee, chairman of the MYCAP Board of Directors.
As of Aug. 1, the Community Development Institute of Denver will take over as interim operator of the Head Start program in Mahoning County.
According to CDI’s website, the Federal Office of Head Start appoints it as interim operator of Head Start and Early Head Start programs when the current grantee’s responsibility for the program ceases.
A July 14 letter to Head Start/Early Head Start staff from Lois Clark, program director, and Shelia Triplett, interim chief executive officer, said MYCAP was notified July 2 that it was permanently disqualified from the Child and Adult Care Food Program food-service grant it used to feed Head Start participants.
The food program is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service effort administered in Ohio by the state board of education that provides aid to child-care programs such as Head Start.
In their letter, they informed staff members that the loss of the CACFP grant made it very difficult to administer Head Start, a program that requires some $400,000 annually for food-operation costs.
Clark and Triplett wrote that management and the board of directors were unsuccessful in finding other funding sources and “had no alternative but to relinquish administration of the Head Start/Early Head Start after over 45 years in order to meet the deadline required by the Head Start federal office.”
Loss of Head Start is a big loss for MYCAP.
Of the total staff of some 140, about 120 are teachers, assistants and support staff working for Head Start.
“Our intent is that there be no disruption in program services and to save as many jobs as possible. We lost our biggest program, but MYCAP will continue providing other services such as employment assistance and HEAP,” McGee said.
MYCAP is the federally designated, countywide poverty-prevention agency. Its programs include Head Start, Center for Family Economic Success, home weatherization, emergency energy assistance and nutrition, senior transportation and rural services, Computer Literacy Program, Financial Literacy Program, Home Energy Assistance Program, Home Weatherization Assistance Program, Minority Business Assistance Center and Workforce Development Program.
More bad news for employees of MYCAP was recounted in another internal letter MYCAP letter.
MYCAP’s Finance /Personnel Committee approved the suspension of the 5 percent agency contribution to employee’s 403(b) pension effective July 12, and cellphone stipends were suspended as of July 1, wrote Marilyn Montes, human resources director, in a letter to staff.
Also, Montes said: “We expect additional changes such as layoffs, salary adjustments and/or changes in job functions.”
In their letter, Clark and Triplett said that all Head Start positions will become vacant and CDI will have a “job fair” at which employees can apply for jobs. They said, however, it was not known if the rate of pay, job functions and benefits would be the same as under MYCAP and that health benefits with Anthem Insurance Co. will cease July 31.
McGee said losing the CACFP grant has nothing to do with the excellence of the overall MYCAP program.
“We had a recent glowing audit with no findings from the Ohio Department of Development and Youngstown city, and under certain circumstances, we could be one of the bidders to operate Head Start in 2015-16. MYCAP itself, as an overall entity, is in compliance,” he said.
McGee said MYCAP’s major issue is the debt it owes the Ohio Department of Education, which distributes CACFP grants. It is an issue from the past that MYCAP was unable to overcome in time to qualify for the CACFP grant, he said.
The state education department said last fall that MYCAP owed the state agency $793,113 by Nov. 1, and proposed to disqualify the MYCAP from future participation in the federally funded Child and Adult Care Food Program.