Generous donation helps Head Start stay open amid partial shutdown of federal government


The country hits the debt limit in 10 days and Senate Democrats plan to introduce their bill to raise the nation's debt limit this week. Democrats want to allow President Barack Obama to raise the limit on his own authority. Republicans say they want long-term deficit cuts or reforms to benefit programs.

Meanwhile one Houston couple is doing what they can to help one program that's been hit hard by the shutdown -- Head Start.

The federally funded programs provide educational opportunities, medical screenings and even free food to low-income children so the couple said they had to get involved.

Federally funded pre-school programs are closing across the country. On Monday, on the sixth day of the government shutdown, Head Start officials say more than 7,000 low-income children are out of school.

"It's like they're punishing us and I don't like that," one Head Start parent said.

Here in Harris County, Head Start officials say they only have enough money to remain open for a few more months.

"My daughter, she really like it and she really love it, and she's learning a lot," Head Start parent Melanie Rhodes said.

On Monday, Houston couple John and Laura Arnold pledged $10 million to Head Start. Their generous donation will fund seven programs across the country that have already shut down.

The couple released a statement that reads, in part:

"Our representatives' inability to resolve their differences has caused severe disruptions in the lives of many low-income Americans. We believe that it is especially unfair that young children from underprivileged communities and working families pay the price for the legislature's collective failures."

Head Start has already pledged to pay back the couple without interest, if funding is fully restored.

"All we're concerned about is that we want our daycare open. We're struggling out here and it's not easy," Rhodes said.

The Arnolds are urging Congress to act, saying their donation is just a temporary fix, and they'll be watching to see what happens next.

Find Pooja on Facebook at PoojaLodhia-Reporter or on Twitter at @impoojalodhia

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