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Hurricane Sandy: Thinking of our Families, Children and Child Care Providers

Linda Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood DevelopmentBy Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Development
Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services

Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012.  A year ago today, communities throughout the eastern seaboard experienced the devastating and tragic effects of Hurricane Sandy, which has been one of the costliest natural disasters in American history.

President Obama and the Administration’s response to Hurricane Sandy was swift and timely. By the time Hurricane Sandy had made landfall, more than 1,500 personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were on the ground along the East Coast and within a week an additional 17,000 federal responders were on the ground providing assistance.

I am grateful to our partners at FEMA for all of their efforts. Communities in the Northeast experienced devastating and tragic effects of Hurricane Sandy. Communities were shattered, families were torn apart, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and lives were upended. Young children who develop special bonds with their child care providers found themselves without even that security. But brick by brick, block by block, we are rebuilding. The impacted communities will come back stronger and the federal government will continue to stand right by their side as we continue to recover and rebuild.

Photo of a mangled stroller in a demolished house in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.On the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, we all look back at the past year. For many of our young children and families, it was a very difficult and challenging time. Our efforts have been aimed at working parents with young children, our child care providers both large and small and the dedicated staff who care for our youngest children in good and bad weather. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Child Care and the Office of Head Start provided technical assistance to agencies in New York and New Jersey to support child care, foster care, and Head Start recovery efforts. This support included developing a plan to provide child care services to families who lost child care services as a result of storm impacts to child care facilities. See some of the highlights from ACF’s Region II here.

Today, as we think of our families, children and child care programs one year later, I share with you news about funding provided by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to areas directly affected by Hurricane Sandy. These funds will help our families with young children, our child care providers and our child care workforce as they continue to recover and rebuild. There’s more to do. The work does not end yet, but we are partners in this effort.

Social Services Block Grants:

The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program provides flexible funding to states in providing a wide range of services to children and families, vulnerable older adults, persons with disabilities, and at-risk adolescents and young adults. States determine the types of services, including child care, that will be provided, who is eligible to receive services, and how funds are used within the requirements of federal law. 

To date $475 million has been awarded to the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland. New York state has awarded $200 million of their $235,434,600 allocation to more than 450 healthcare and human service providers and other community-based organizations. Recently, New Jersey has begun to award grants under its $226,794,105 allocation. Other grants include Connecticut, which received $10.5 million; Maryland received nearly $1.2 million, and Rhode Island received $516,428.

Head Start: 

More than 100 Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) centers experienced physical damage ranging from minor losses to complete destruction.  Services to children and families were disrupted in many programs.  Most programs have fully resumed services to children.   Some programs with severely damaged or destroyed HS or EHS centers have substituted home-based services or temporarily moved services to a leased alternate location. 

ACF received approximately $95 million for rebuilding Head Start centers in affected states that suffered major or catastrophic damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Office of Head Start (OHS) has received funding requests from 15 grantees totaling $46,871,432. To date, $7,545,919 has been awarded to nine Head Start grantees in Region 2 and $352,558 to one grantee in Region 3. OHS is working to award approximately $13 million to six grantees within the next three months. OHS anticipates that additional funding requests will be submitted throughout the next year and existing funding requests may increase.

Domestic Violence Grants:

ACF has awarded approximately $2 million for domestic violence prevention and services resources including current Family Violence Prevention and Services Act grantees. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships were each awarded $775,000. The New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women received a grant of $175,000 and the National Domestic Violence Hotline was awarded $275,000 as a cooperative agreement. 

ACF recently welcomed Linda G. Greenberg, Ph.D. to our Early Childhood Development department as Senior Advisor. Linda will coordinate the Hurricane Sandy funding and recovery efforts for ACF. She has skill in managing complex and multi-disciplinary projects and I look forward to working with her as we continue to provide support and resources to the early childhood development field.

As we look back on the past year, it is important to learn lessons. Every day, including today, is a good time to make sure that you and your family have emergency plans in place. Please take time to visit our new page and other resources.

Linda K. Smith is the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this role she provides overall policy coordination for the Head Start and Early Head Start Program and the Child Care and Development Fund, as well as serving as the liaison with the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. Her office serves as a focal point for early childhood policy at the federal level.

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