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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Academics & Research

Government shutdown causes issues for some students


While University proceedings were largely unaffected by the 35-day federal government shutdown, students whose parents went without pay during that time suffered as a result. | Laura Contasti/The Cougar

After 35 days without pay, federal employees returned to work Monday thanks to a short-term bill that will fund the government for the next three weeks.

Signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, the bill is set to provide back pay to the 800,000 federal employees who have been affected by the partial shutdown — a relief for students whose parents work for the government.

“Both of my parents represent the two types of workers affected,” said honors biomedical sciences senior Alexander Le. “My dad works in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and if the shutdown had continued into mid-February, he would have likely been furloughed as the office runs out of funding.”

Le is one of the many students at UH who has been adversely affected by the shutdown.

“My mother works as a small food store owner in an IRS building that was closed during the shutdown, and though she wasn’t a direct employee, she was one of the millions of contractors that were affected and will not regain any income back from the shutdown,” Le said.

Despite being a part of the longest government shutdown in American history, however, most students at UH have been living life as usual.

“I haven’t been affected because neither of my parents are government employees, but I don’t ignore what’s going on in our country,” said psychology sophomore Rachel Reynolds. “I try my best to stay informed.”

The University itself remained largely unaffected by the shutdown.

Some faculty members whose research is funded by federal grants from the National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation or other federal agencies likely were affected by the federal shutdown, said associate professor Jennifer Hayes Clark.

“The shutdown also put a halt on funding applications to these federal agencies by UH faculty,” Hayes Clark said.

Departments such as Veteran Services were untouched and will remain fully funded for the rest of the fiscal year, said U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Likewise, the shutdown had little to no impact on students’ financial aid, according to the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

“The United States Department of Education was open and funded, so federal aid, such as Pell Grants and Direct Student Loans were not impacted,” said Carl Gordon, Assistant Director- Advising of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

Though loans and grants were not impacted, some students reported issues with filing for their FAFSAs.

“A system malfunction involving the IRS tax transcript retrieval tool made me miss the priority financial aid deadline,” said psychology junior Alyssa Rice.

The biggest effects felt by the Financial Aid Office came from shutdowns at agencies related to the school’s processing requirements, the IRS being one of those agencies.

All offices at the Financial Aid Office are up and running, Gordon said.

Students who were severely affected or experienced a significant amount of income or benefit loss are advised to speak to a financial aid adviser.

Though the partial government shutdown has been temporarily ended, worries remain among students and parents for what’s to come on Feb. 15.

“As long as congresspeople are able to get paid for not being able to do their job while ordinary workers suffer the consequences, I don’t think we can ever be relieved,” Le said.

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