WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced earlier this month that $5.4 million will be distributed to Head Start programs across the state to aid with resuming in-person instruction in the fall.

Eastern Oregon University Head Start, which serves more than 200 students in Union and Baker counties, will receive $125,633.

“Head Start programs give low-income kids in Oregon and nationwide a leg up, preparing them to excel in school,” Wyden said in a statement. “It’s critical to get the Head Start programs of our state back in person as quickly and safely as possible to make sure Oregon’s youngsters don’t fall behind. This funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which I fought to pass through Congress earlier this year, will help do just that.”

This funding is being provided through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed on March 11, 2021.

About $1 billion of this was designated for Head Start, which is funded by the federal government and focuses on providing free preschool to lower-income families.

Eastern Oregon University Head Start, which given an additional $1.06 million — 30% more than usual — over the 2020-21 school year from state and federal funding, has 50 employees at its centers in La Grande, Elgin, Union and Baker City.

Last year, as a result of the funding, each of these employees was given a 27% pay raise and the La Grande center started construction of a new building.

The EOU Head Start program usually receives about three-fourths of its funding from the federal government, and the remaining one-fourth from state funding. Over the 2020-21 school year, 175 out of 206 students were living under the poverty line, making additional funds like this crucial to student success.

“This funding from the American Rescue Plan will help to provide a strong foundation for students of all backgrounds to thrive, especially after the challenges of schooling through the coronavirus pandemic,” Merkley said in a statement.

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