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NEON receives funding extension for Norwalk Head Start

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Head Start program is expected to continue in its current location through the end of the year, although cuts may be made due to the federal sequester.

NEON (Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, Inc.) announced Friday that the Administration for Children & Families (ACF) has extended federal funding for its Head Start program through Dec. 31. Funding had previously been extended through June 30.

The ACF stated that the award will be reduced by the annual amount of the sequester, once that percentage is determined. “It is our expectation (NEON) will continue to serve children throughout this period, acknowledging that some adjustments in service duration or reductions in funded enrollment of children may be necessary due to the effects of the sequester,” the letter said, according to the press release.

NEON interim President and CEO Pat Wilson Pheanious greeted the news as a very positive development, the press release said. “The extension of funding reassures our student’s parents and the community that our agency’s management of Head Start meets or exceeds federal requirements. Over the last year NEON has made great strides in advancing our program. We are now in an excellent position to re-compete for Head Start funding,” she said in the release.

NEON missed its July 16 deadline for its Head Start grant funding application last year. As there were no successful applicants for the Norwalk area, NEON is now eligible to re-compete in an application process that will be initiated in the near future, the release said.

NEON was required to re-apply for funding after a December 2009 program review, which found several minor deficiencies related to building safety and staff training, the release said. One year ago the Administration for Children & Families released a report that found NEON had corrected the deficiencies. NEON was one of 132 Head Start agencies nationwide that had to re-apply.

NEON serves the economically vulnerable population in the greater Norwalk and Stamford area and operates Norwalk’s Head Start and early child development programs with an enrollment of 512 children.

NEON Chief Operating Officer Chiquita Stephenson said recently that she hopes corporations, businesses and foundations would become involved with sponsoring scholarships for children to attend school. The cost is $8,000 per pupil per year.

The anti-poverty agency recently redesigned the second floor of the Ben Franklin Center to create new S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classrooms that are supported by advanced technology, the release said.

NEON also manages many other services and programs in the areas of adult and youth employment and training; energy assistance; neighborhood community centers; wealth and asset development; after school activities; family services; substance abuse and community corrections residential facilities.

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