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What is a government shutdown and how could it affect UNT?

What is a government shutdown and how could it affect UNT?

February 09
10:04 2018

The federal government shut down early Friday morning for the second time in 2018 after a senator refused to vote for a budget deal which would keep the government functioning.

Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, would not vote for the budget due to what he saw as unnecessarily large spending increases.

The year’s first shutdown occurred on the anniversary of President Donald Trump taking office, beginning at midnight Jan. 20 and ending Jan. 22.

This shutdown is set to end soon as well, with the New York Times reporting expectations for the Senate to pass the budget early Friday morning followed by the House soon after.

The government may avoid stopping functions if all goes to plan and the House approves the budget before the work day begins.

But what is a shutdown? And how can the federal government of the United States experience one without dire consequences?

Why government shutdowns occur

A government shutdown occurs when Congress and the president fail to pass what are called appropriations, or bills that continue funding government operations and agencies.

The first shutdown of 2018, prompted by Congress’ inability to come to an agreement regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), left some students frustrated.

“I feel like any of it could have been avoided,” speech pathology senior Kristina Osteen said.

Since 1990, the required practice has been to “shut down” the government in such an event. This means, depending on which resolutions were unable to pass before the midnight deadline, non-essential employees take a leave of absence and affected agencies are restricted.

How federal shutdowns affect UNT

With looming threats of halted federal funding and suspended pay for federal employees, some may worry that a government shutdown will affect public university funding, financial aid and veteran services.

However, according to UNT Political Science Chair Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, students need not worry.

“In particular, it doesn’t have much impact at all on higher education,” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “Students’ financial aid usually isn’t affected.”

In the case of a government shutdown, “non-essential” employees usually refers to people working at national parks, museums and monuments. Even then, visitors to these locations will most likely be able to explore the park or monument, but will simply have to skip the visitor center.

Universities are typically considered essential during a shutdown.

Where students may feel the effects

“There are some minor things [that are affected],” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “If you need data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, that’s something that economists in political science use. They’re not gonna be updating that.”

Eshbaugh-Soha said students needing to travel for school may face difficulties if they need to renew passports during a government shutdown. However, except for these few exceptions, college students should not face any significant problems due to the essential nature of public universities.

Agencies dealing with veterans are usually considered essential as well – while paycheck delays are certainly a possibility, UNT Veteran Services Director of Student Affairs James Davenport said serious issues arising from shutdowns are uncommon.

“During the last government shutdown, I wasn’t working here but I was working with the Texas Veterans’ Commission,” Davenport said. “And I can’t remember any veteran coming in and saying, ‘I didn’t get my pension. I’m getting kicked out of school.’”

Overall, while a government shutdown may seem to threaten federal employees and those receiving federal aid, a shutdown is ultimately more of a negotiation tool in party conflicts regarding legislation.

“They’re trying to use that political chip,” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “‘Can I use this to try to force some sort of negotiation?’”

Featured Image: File

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Ellen Throneberry

Ellen Throneberry

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