NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Democrats in Congress are warning about the impact of proposed budget cuts. Hard-line Republicans want to see significant federal spending reductions, which could have a major impact on Connecticut’s Head Start early education programs.

New Haven’s LULAC Head Start program gives 300 young kids a chance to learn from an early age. Another 160 families are on a waiting list. Democrats in Congress warn that Republican proposals would deliver a significant blow to early child care like this.

“It imposes drastic cuts to programs in 2024, and they also are talking about severe spending caps,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) said.

Some Republicans want to see significant federal budget cuts before voting to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Not raising the debt ceiling means the U.S. would essentially default on its loans. National Head Start Association officials said the cuts Republicans suggest would devastate the program.

“One-hundred-seventy thousand children not being able to have access to Head Start… 170,000 families not knowing what to do or where to go,” Deputy Director of the National Head Start Association Tommy Sheridan said.

Every day, teachers at LULAC see how important Head Start is to those families.

“A parent said to me just yesterday, ‘You’re the reason I’m smiling today,'” Head Start Educator Kashonda Lawrence said. “That made me feel so good.”

It is easy for New Haven parents to imagine what it would be like to do without the resources of Head Start because, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were forced to go without them.

“He was using his hands in not a nice way,” said Angelica Morman about her son during that time. “He was using his words in a not nice way and very mean to his siblings.”

“She gets bored easily,” Nelida Melendez said about her daughter. “So, she was either running back and forth, or she was asking her sister to play when her sister had to do work.”

Head Starts everywhere are already struggling with too little staff and money.

“These shortages, with competitive salaries and increased work for teachers in the classrooms, should be met with more, not less,” LULAC Head Start Executive Director Mikyle Bird said.

DeLauro says Republican proposals would eliminate 1,400 Head Start slots in Connecticut alone.