The government has shut down, but the world hasn’t ended. Yet. So what has changed? How will the government shutdown make a difference in your life?
What does government shutdown mean?
A government shutdown is the name of the process the federal government must enter when Congress fails to pass legislation funding government operations and agencies. On Oct. 1, the U.S. government entered this shutdown after Congress failed to enact regular appropriations (a sum of money devoted to a special purpose) for the fiscal year 2014.
How could it affect me?
1. Your grants and research funding could be stalled: With federal programs being defunded, government subsidies for scientific research — like that at public universities such as ours — just might become inaccessible. Already granted awards are to be honored, but the government does not have the money or the initiative to provide new funds. With the Department of Education having neither a budget nor a full staff, ongoing and proposed scientific research are not a priority.
2. All research funding could be stalled: We may not always think about it, but government research, such as that at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has a profound impact on our lives. Not only has the annual surveillance of the flu virus has been halted, but food inspection facilities have been closed as well, leading to outbreaks in salmonella and hepatitis.
3. Academic resources will not be updated: Speaking of research, if you’re looking for federal data and information for a research paper, you might have to keep looking. The websites for the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Education Resources Information Center, the National Archives and more have not been kept up to date since.
4. You might have to change your travel plans: Oh, you need a passport to study abroad next semester? Might want to get started on that application. No last-minute passports are being granted, and, in fact, you can expect delays in the process. You might be delayed at the airport, too, as the TSA has furloughed its “nonessential” employees. But even if you were thinking about driving down to Yosemite to go camping for the weekend, you’re going to have to change your plans. Many attractions run by the National Park Service have been closed. You’ll just have to wait until the government starts working again.
5. And what’s the deal with financial aid? Thankfully, federal student aid should go largely unaffected, at least for the time being. There is supposed to be a limited impact on both the administration of FAFSA and student loan repayment abilities, while direct loans, Pell Grants and other financial aid dollars will continue to be distributed. In the long term, however, a shutdown lasting awhile might curb funding to public universities, such as us here at UC Berkeley.
Has the government ever shut down before?
Yes. Technically, this is the 18th time since 1976 that the government has shut down. But only two other shutdowns have lasted longer than two weeks, as this year’s has — when Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans wrangled over budget matters from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 5, 1996 (21 days), and during Jimmy Carter’s administration from Sept. 30, 1978, to Oct. 18, 1978 (18 days).
When does it end?
It will end when Congress passes the bill(s) to fund the government and the president signs them.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a government shutdown during President Jimmy Carter’s tenure lasted from Sept. 20, 1978, to Oct. 18, 1978. In fact, that shutdown lasted from Sept. 30, 1978, to Oct. 18, 1978.
Contact Holly Secon and Sujin Shin at [email protected]