Head Start in Lexington area to stay open, use line of credit during shutdown

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comOctober 4, 2013 

Vaughn Nebbitt, children's services coordinator, helped 4-year-old D'Asia Sweat Nathaniel last fall on the computer during her Head Start class at the Russell School Community Services Center in Lexington.

CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF — Herald-Leader

Without federal funds, the Lexington-based Community Action Council will use its line of credit at the bank to pay employees at 11 Head Start programs during the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, its executive director said.

In another effect of the shutdown, at the office of U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Kentucky, 31 employees, of a staff of about 90, and one contractor have been furloughed, U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said Friday.

Harvey said prosecutors were working but most of the criminal support staff had been furloughed, including many legal assistants and paralegals.

"I can tell you that those furloughs substantially impede criminal prosecutions," Harvey said. "It is a real problem and it is also incredibly frustrating. These are some great people, some great public servants who are not allowed to work during this."

Meanwhile, Community Action Council executive director Malcolm Ratchford said the council's executive board made the decision to continue to keep the Head Start centers open and pay employees, even though the shutdown means that their federal funds lasted only through Friday.

The affected centers are in Fayette, Bourbon, Harrison and Scott counties. They employ about 175 people and care for more than 1,400 children.

By using the line of credit and prioritizing cash flow, "We're going to operate as normal on Monday," Ratchford said. "We are going to open up to make sure we serve families."

Also, Ratchford said, "Staff need to work. They want to work."

He said that as soon as the federal funding resume, money obtained from the line of credit will be repaid.

At the U.S. Attorney's office, employees can be called into work for an essential task and then returned to furlough status, Harvey said.

Among those also furloughed are employees who defend civil lawsuits filed against the government and administrative staff in the office, he said.

"This is causing a very significant hardship to the employees involved and it is substantially impeding the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's office," he said.

When the Herald-Leader sent an email Friday to media spokesman Kyle Edelen, a return email said that due to "the lapse in appropriations," Edelen would be out of the office for an indefinite period.

At the U. S. District Court Clerk's office, Chief Deputy Clerk Nathan Lee said that office could operate normally through Oct. 15. "At that point a contingency plan would have to go into place for the essential workers of the court."

Lee said, however, that because defendants have a constitutional right to a speedy trial, some activities will move ahead regardless of what happens with the shutdown.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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