Furloughed federal workers. Shuttered government agencies. Individuals and institutions all across the country are feeling the effects of the government shutdown—and as it turns out, the University of Minnesota is no exception.
University spokesperson Devin Henry says to date, its researchers have accrued about $10 million in unreimbursed expenses.
“Every day the shutdown continues, that tally grows by more than half-a-million dollars,” says Henry. “That’s money the University has already spent to keep federal projects running, and it will not be reimbursed by the federal government until the shutdown ends.”
The expenses derive from the nearly 1,300 awards that University of Minnesota researchers rely on for projects. These awards come from different agencies, including the National Science Foundation, NASA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and more. With those departments inactive, awards aren’t being issued for new or already submitted proposals.
Additionally, sponsors aren’t able to approve significant changes to projects, which is halting progress.
While researchers are being crippled, two facilities on campus have been shuttered, as they are under the umbrella of the currently inactive U.S. Department of Agriculture: the Cereal Disease Lab and the Northern Research Center.
The Northern Research Center employees have been relocated to other facilities within the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences to continue their work as possible. But space to work isn’t the only problem those employees were presented with once the shutdown commenced.
“The absence of their USDA colleagues represents a significant disruption for collaborating researchers at the University,” says Channing Riggs, director of federal relations for the University of Minnesota.
Riggs also noted that the shutdown is impacting students. He explained that even though the Department of Education is not part of the shutdown and is currently still operational, there are some students having difficulty verifying their income to receive decisions on financial aid, because the IRS is not operating as normal.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum visited the University on Friday to discuss the shutdown’s impact on the school. She could not be reached for comment by press time, but on Twitter Friday, she commented on a tweet from the University’s research account about the meeting.
“The impacts of the shutdown are growing in the 4th Congressional District and beyond. It’s long past time to #EndTheShutdown.”
This week, it's U.S. Senator Tina Smith's turn to discuss the shutdown impacts with University research and student services officials, in a meeting Tuesday afternoon in Northrop Hall's Lindahl Founders Room. Smith has been visiting Minnesota community members and businesses affected by the government situation, and held a roundtable January 16 st the U.S. Capitol with Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen to hear from U.S. government contract employees.
Like McCollum, Smith has also been actively denouncing the shutdown on social media, calling attention to how it's keeping people from paying for medicine or mortgages, and keeping some from receiving benefits like SNAP, among other issues.
"Federal workers have essentially been held hostage by Trump’s shutdown," Smith tweeted January 12. "Let me tell you—the human toll is real. There are bipartisan ways to #EndTheShutdown & we must take them up."