The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded the Head Start program nearly $5 million for "customer service" on Wednesday.
The program, which recently received a $1 billion increase in funding from the omnibus budget deal, will have a small business facilitate administrative services for one year, beginning on Feb. 1.
FM Talent Source, which provides business consulting and recruitment services for government agencies and companies, will provide "administrative support" for the Office of Head Start Director’s Senior Management Team, at a cost of $4,820,078.40.
"This support will include but not be limited to coordinating meetings, maintaining logs, records and files, developing and distributing reports, interfacing with internal personnel at all levels of the organization, and performing general administrative duties," the contract said.
Services will include "scheduling appointments, preparing travel arrangements, arranging meetings, maintaining staff calendars, and coordinating assignments between staff and other [Administration for Children and Families] ACF offices."
The company will also be responsible for "taking notes," "generating and mailing miscellaneous correspondence," and will create reports, spreadsheets, and presentations that are "clearly marked with the Head Start logo."
"Successful delivery of the services to be provided under the Office of Head Start Customer Service Support contract requires employees with the knowledge base and capability to support OHS operational procedures, White House initiatives, Congressional mandates, federal reporting requirements, and provide technical or administrative expertise," the contract said. "Key staff must possess a basic understanding of Head Start and the field of early childhood education."
They will have to provide Head Start with "expertise" on several topics, including, "education, health and nutrition, mental, dental, social services, family and parent involvement and others, as needed."
Head Start has a budget of $8.6 billion to provide school readiness for roughly 1 million low-income children aged birth to five each year.
HHS blamed sequestration’s five percent cut to Head Start for "turning away" 57,000 children from the program last year. Its budget then received a 13 percent increase in the 1,582-page omnibus bill, which passed earlier this month.
The bill included a $1.025 billion increase to Head Start’s budget, including $500 million to expand its programs, according to the National Head Start Association.
The increase in funding comes after HHS admitted the program has no long-term benefit to children, last year. The agency’s impact study on Head Start found that by the third grade, children had no measurable benefit in cognitive abilities from participating in the program.
"In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices," HHS said. "The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children."
The recent contract includes a focus on "media relations." "The contractor shall furnish experienced, professional personnel to provide communications and media relations expertise," it said.
"The communications expert will assist senior OHS staff members with establishing and maintaining external stakeholder communication, verbally and/or in written form, between federal agencies, State partners, the general public and other media outlets," it said.
HHS said it anticipates FM Talent Source to travel regularly in order to meet Head Start’s customer service needs. For example, senior advisors and public affairs specialists on the project will take an estimated two trips per month, averaging two to three days.