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Government shutdown could stall research, impede victims’ services

What happens when the government shuts down?

The world won't end if Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill. That's the truth about a government "shutdown": the government doesn't shut down.
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The world won't end if Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill. That's the truth about a government "shutdown": the government doesn't shut down.

If the federal government shutdown drags on for months — which President Donald Trump has said could happen — South Carolina’s top universities and the people who depend on them could take a hit, officials said Friday.

That’s because the state’s three primary research institutions — the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina — all depend on federal funding to conduct research into agriculture, medicine and more.

For example, USC receives $200 million, or 12 percent of its system-wide revenue, from federal grants and contracts, according to its 2018-19 budget.

The shutdown, sparked by a showdown over funding for a proposed wall on the nation’s southern border, has entered its 14th day with no clear end in sight.

A prolonged shutdown would have its most immediate effect at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. There, crime victims who receive services through the Justice Department-funded National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center could have their appointments canceled, MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said in an email.

“The NCVC relies on a Department of Justice grant to fund its work investigating the impact of criminal victimization and other traumatic events on adults and children,” MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said in an email. “With only one more week of funding, the NCVC will be significantly impacted if the government doesn’t reopen soon.”

Research at USC would also be affected by a shutdown, but only if the impasse drags on to historic levels, a possibility Trump left open Friday.

“The shutdown would have to go for many months for USC to be impacted significantly, and will have no impact on salaries of full-time professors/faculty,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in an email. “We expect to be reimbursed by the federal government, and agencies are obligated to pay us for all current grants. The money will come; the shutdown makes the timeline uncertain.”

The longest government shutdown in recent history was 21 days, when Bill Clinton was president and Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, according to CNN.

In the meantime, no new award money for research is being distributed. No new grants or contracts are being approved for agencies affected by the shutdown.

Nine federal departments are affected by the shutdown, including NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation. Others, such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs and more remain unaffected by the shutdown.

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Lucas Daprile has been covering the University of South Carolina and higher education since March 2018. Before working for The State, he graduated from Ohio University and worked as an investigative reporter at TCPalm in Stuart, FL. There, where he won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his political and environmental coverage.


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