What You Need to Know about the Government Shutdown

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With no end in sight to the partial federal government shutdown which began December 22, there are growing questions about which federal agencies are affected and how the shutdown might impact federally funded research at Boston University.

“This is a partial government shutdown, so only select government agencies, which do not have a final fiscal year 2019 budget, are affected,” says Jennifer Grodsky, the University’s vice president for federal relations.

Still, faculty should heed deadlines for grant proposals they’re working on, says Gloria Waters, vice president and associate provost for research. “It is very important that faculty continue to work on grant applications, so they are ready to submit when the government reopens,” Waters says.

Grodsky discussed other details regarding the shutdown with BU Today.

BU Today: What does the shutdown mean for investigators who are submitting proposals for federally sponsored research?

Grodsky: It means that some program managers and contacts at a small number of federal agencies may not be available. For those agencies impacted by the shutdown, researchers should continue to follow sponsor-posted deadlines and submit proposals to Sponsored Programs in accordance with the proposal-submission process, so they may be reviewed and submitted where possible, though they will not be processed by agencies until normal operations resume.

Which agencies are open and which are closed?

The Department of Health and Human Services (including the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health), the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the Department of Energy are still open, because Congress finalized their budgets earlier this fall. For other agencies without finalized budgets, like the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, only essential federal personnel are working, and each agency defines “essential” differently. You can see how every agency operates in a shutdown by looking at the agency contingency plans on the White House Office of Management and Budget website.

What impact does the shutdown have on students?

Fortunately, federal financial aid is not impacted. The Department of Education has a finalized budget for fiscal year 2019 and will operate as usual. Unfortunately, a small number of BU students who are scheduled to begin internships at impacted federal agencies in Washington this semester may see their start date delayed. Students with questions are urged to contact Rachel Koepsel, program manager, Washington, D.C. programs, Boston University Study Abroad at [email protected].

What about researchers who are currently working under federal contracts and grants? Should they continue to work?

Yes, researchers should continue to work on their grants and contracts unless their agency or program officer has advised them otherwise. Faculty should keep in close touch with their Sponsored Programs contacts and check the Research Support website for updates.

Is the shutdown affecting faculty and staff in other ways?

Faculty and staff planning to travel to Washington, D.C., during the shutdown period—for meetings with federal officials at the small number of impacted agencies—should check whether their federal contact will be available to meet. Most federal agency staff at affected agencies are not working during the shutdown. Similarly, if a faculty or staff member has invited a federal official from one of the closed agencies to visit BU, it’s possible the visit will need to be rescheduled.