The United States government shut down Tuesday at midnight for the first time in 17 years due to the failure of Democrats and Republicans in both chambers to reach a consensus on an appropriations bill.
Duke will be mostly unaffected by the shutdown, said Christopher Simmons, associate vice president for federal relations. Because the shutdown applies only to federal government agencies, the impact on the University will be indirect and limited to only those who interact with the affected agencies, he said, such as researchers receiving grants. Many departments, including financial aid, will be minimally affected, he said.
“The shutdown probably isn’t going to last that long, and students and faculty will [likely] not even notice [the impact],” Simmons said.
No additional grants will be given to the University from the federal government while the shutdown persists, but grants that have already been received will not be taken away.
Alison Rabil, assistant vice provost and director of financial aid, said that influx of aid will not change during the shutdown.
“It should not be affected. Loans can still go out and come in and Pell grants have been drawn down,” Rabil wrote in an email Tuesday. “Work study students are still going to be paid, so I don’t think the shutdown will have any effect on the federal funding that students are receiving.”
Although most students will not see changes in financial aid, the Office of the University Registrar reported on its Facebook page late Tuesday afternoon that tuition assistance for Veteran students has been suspended. Post-9/11 GI Bill and and Montgomery GI Bill beneficiaries, however, will remain unaffected.
Vice Provost for Research James Siedow said the operations of agencies Duke interacts with, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, will dictate how some research is funded at Duke during the shutdown.
Although live NIH personnel will be unavailable and new grant proposals will not be reviewed, the agency will have an automated data management system that will allow researchers to drawdown, or claim, the funding they are scheduled to receive, he said. The NSF, however, is not allowing any drawdowns to occur.
Siedow said that Duke researchers are free to continue to do work with money they have already received but will not be able to claim anything further from the NSF.
“As long as there is money in the grant you can go ahead and continue working,” he said. “Normally, we do research and periodically make a request for money. As we do work we get paid from the feds. Duke is going to backstop the money. [We can] go ahead and do the work and the payment will catch up after.”
Barbara Wise, associate director of the office of undergraduate scholars and fellows, said that research students applying for grants should not stop work on their grant proposals even if they will not be reviewed immediately.
“The hope is that the shutdown will be over by the grant deadline,” Wise wrote in an email Tuesday. “My suggestion is that students continue working on their applications offline so that they can meet the original deadline since we do not know if it will be extended when the government goes back to work. “
Simmons said he believes that Duke Hospital will not face funding issues and all Medicare and Medicaid insurance funding for patients will continue to come through.
The National Endowment for the Humanities will halt its core functions, including application processing and review as well as doling out grant payments.
Srinivas Aravamudan, professor and dean of humanities, said he does not think the NEH’s closure will cause large disruptions in the operations of the humanities departments unless the shutdown drags on.
“Of course, were this shutdown to go on for a long time, it might have an impact on our humanities faculty who are often successful with winning external funding and grants, including NEH grants—[which is] not to mention the effect of a long-term shutdown on the economy, which will affect everybody including humanists,” Aravamudan said in an email Tuesday.
A ticking clock
The effects of the shutdown on scientific research projects will also depend heavily on its duration, Siedow said.
He showed concern for a prolonged shutdown, noting that more than a few weeks of grant proposal inaction could cause problems with research scheduling, as grants already take six to nine months to be approved and appropriated from the time they are submitted. Additionally, researchers will not be able to interact with their project managers at the federal agencies during the shutdown, limiting their ability to receive approval for any changes to their research spending.
“The longer it lasts, the further things are going to get pushed back,” Siedow said. “If it all gets pushed back too far you can’t get [funding] until somewhat later when you run out of money.”
The duration of the shutdown is yet to be determined, said David Rohde, Ernestine Friedl professor of political science. Congress could attempt to pass a series of bills to reopen parts of the government in the interest of public relations, he said, but to delegate funding to the entire government is another matter.
On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives failed to pass a bill to appropriate funding to veterans services, the city of Washington D.C. and the national parks.
“Each side has different priorities,” Rohde said. “It’s hard to tell until we see exactly who is hurt and how much. The more influential segments of the population that have influence on both parties might get the first attention.”
This story was updated 2:43 a.m. Wednesday to reflect new information.