On Monday at midnight, the U.S. Congress remained deadlocked on passing this fiscal year’s budget, causing the federal government to partially shutdown starting on Tuesday. Many non-essential federal employees across a wide number of agencies have been furloughed, some to the point of complete cessation. The webpages of several of these agencies including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have been replaced with landing pages stating that the website cannot be maintained during the shutdown.
But what does that mean for you as a member of the MIT community?
NSF, NIH and other federally funded grants delayed
For the seniors applying to graduate school and fellowships this fall, the applications for National Science Foundation (NSF) grants are temporarily closed. Although the applications are not due until at least Nov. 4, students who are working on the application will be unable to access the system until funding is restored.
Coyin Oh ’14 mentioned that while she would be applying for privately funded fellowships, she knew a Course 1E (Environmental Engineering) senior taking the semester off to do field work at national parks who is currently being barred from doing so due to the shutdown. Ironically, that friend was taking a year off to do field work before applying for grants.
In addition, the NSF and other federally funded agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have posted guidance for researchers in regards to continuing grant funding during the shutdown. The NIH published that there will be no access to voicemail, email, fax, or postal mail during the funding lapse, nor will there be access to any of their electronic grant systems. The NIH will also not conducting peer reviews or advisory council review meetings for grants or issuing further Notice of Awards (or any other correspondence relating to grant funds) until operations resume. The document advises institutions awaiting an NoA to “use pre-award costs authority at their own risk.” The NSF takes a similar stance, adding that no new funding opportunities will be advertised until the agency comes back online.
Other effects of the shutdown
If you were planning on going to the JFK Museum, or any other national park or location that’s solely supported by federal funds, you’ll have to pick another place to go. Most of those places are closed. In addition, passport and consulate services will be still be available, but if the passport office is within a federal building that is also closed, that office will be closed as well.
“I thought this country would be mature enough for something like this not to happen,” Mirim Yoo ’16, a student from Korea said. “One of my GRTs made the analogy of the shutdown to a child saying ‘I’m not going to go to school if you make me do my homework.’”
Despite all these changes, many things government supported functions will remain open (or at least until they run out of funding to operate) — social security will still be paid out, the Postal Service will still deliver mail as usual, and all active-duty troops will continue to report for duty (with pay) as usual. For the average student, it seems to be business as usual as you walk around campus.
“It hasn’t really affected my day to day life all that much, not yet, but I get the feeling that it’s going to,” Clara Rhee ’10 said.