Joyce, Miller-Meeks Introduces Legislation to End the Head Start Vaccine Mandate, Protect Access to Critical Support for Toddlers

Feb 03, 2023
Health Care
Press

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Congressman Dave Joyce and Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-1) introduced the Ending Mandates on Head Start Educators Act, legislation that would end the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate imposed upon employees at Head Start facilities located across the United States, including Ohio. 

This legislation would help ensure that no child is left without the educational and nutritional benefits provided to them through Head Start by prohibiting the Secretary of Health and Human Services from continuing to enforce the current vaccine mandate. Head Start facilities would be permitted to implement their own policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, empowering local leaders to institute the procedures that best fit their unique needs. Last Congress, Congressman Joyce and Senator John Thune introduced a similar measure to terminate the mandate through the Congressional Review Act. 

“The vaccine mandate imposed upon Head Start facilities across Ohio and the country has exacerbated the agency’s workforce shortage, jeopardizing the development of America’s most vulnerable children,” said Congressman Joyce. “Head Start provides vital resources to children and their families, from early childhood education to job training resources for parents looking for work. I am proud to continue my work to end this outdated mandate so that no Head Start facility will have to close their doors to families who want nothing more than to give their children an equal shot at the American Dream.” 

“We have all seen the data showing that our students have been negatively impacted by school closures and remote learning, especially in low-income and rural communities,” said Rep. Miller-Meeks. “Children in Head Start programs are in some of the most economically vulnerable populations and need our support. Instead of chastising staff over the covid vaccine, we should be doing everything we can to rebuild their programs and provide children with the help they need.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed with Congressman Joyce’s support H.R. 497, the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act, which would end the vaccine mandate currently in place for healthcare workers employed in a facility that contracts with Medicaid or Medicare. This mandate impacts nearly 17 million Americans and has exacerbated staffing shortages at hospitals and clinics across the country. Should H.R. 497 be signed into law, the vaccine mandate forced upon Head Start employees would be the sole remaining federal vaccine mandate in effect. Congressman Joyce’s legislation takes the crucial, final step to do away with federal vaccine mandates once and for all. 

Founded in 1965, the Head Start program provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parental assistance to low-income families and their children. Head Start serves 33,241 children in the state of Ohio, with nearly 1,500 of those children living in Ohio’s 14th Congressional District. Faced with staffing shortages, some Head Start classrooms in Ohio and throughout the United States have been forced to close their doors, leaving America’s most vulnerable children without the support they need. According to the National Head Start Association, the vaccine mandate could lead to Head Start programs losing over 70,000 staff members, and the closing of over 1,300 Head Start classrooms. 

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