Shutdown hits home

Federal workers and contractors, along with their unions, stage a protest calling for and end to the government shutdown and back pay in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

KentWired Staff

Editor’s note: This is a collection of stories from the KentWired staff showing how the partial government shutdown, which went into effect Dec. 22, has been affecting individuals and organizations of the around the Kent community.


 

Shutdown fact sheet:

Information from House Appropriations Committee fact sheet.

What is the shutdown? Because a budget appropriations bill has not been passed by Congress, several federal government agencies do not have funding and have been forced to close their doors until the bill is passed.

Why is it happening? There is a dispute between President Donald Trump and the Democratic-controlled House over whether to approve $5.7 billion in funding for improved border fencing along the U.S. Mexico border. The president wants the funding, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, refuses to pass any budget bill until the president’s “wall” funding is granted.

Why does it matter? When a shutdown happens, some federal agencies lose funding. This means those agencies are not providing services or carrying out regular duties.

When did it start? Dec. 22, 2018 

When will it end? There is no scheduled end date. The shutdown will end when a compromise is made between the House and Senate on border funding and both sides approve a new budget.

How many people are directly impacted? 420,000 federal employees working without pay, 400,000 more furloughed (sent home from work without pay until government reopens).


Shutdown hits home at Kent campus

Abigail Miller

The nation’s ongoing government shutdown is causing major problems across the country — problems that span from D.C. all the way to the Kent campus.

KatiLynn Miller, a senior school health education major whose family qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, said her government benefits have been affected by the record-breaking shutdown.

“I just got my January balance deposited on Jan. 16, getting a second (for February) on Jan. 20, which will just sit there really, until February comes around for me to use it,” Miller said. “The problem though is, if we don’t get (SNAP benefits) for March, I have no spare amount anymore. If something happens then I’m out of luck.”

In order to save money for groceries and prepare for the shutdown’s indefinite future, Miller splits the bills for groceries with her roommate and plans to be even stricter with her spending than she was prior to the shutdown.

Prior to the shutdown, Miller decided to not work this semester so she could have extra time to spend on school. Now that she has the shutdown and her finances to think about, she’s worried.

“I feel like it adds an additional stress to my education that I shouldn’t have to bare,” she said. “I actually made a decision to not work this semester, to focus just on school, and I feel in the end, that decision will hurt me.”

According to a report done by CNBC, there are some 420,000 government employees who are required to work without pay during the shutdown.

Kevin McMullen, a Kent State alumnus and air traffic controller at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of them.

“We get paid every two weeks, and I didn’t receive a paycheck for the first time on Tuesday,” McMullen said. “There is also no paid leave available during the shutdown. If I had to take a sick day or if I had scheduled time off of a regular shift, the leave would be coded as furlough time, and therefore become leave without pay.”

McMullen, 26, has the added stress of providing for his wife Emily, who’s 12 weeks pregnant, and has to work full-time due to the shutdown for extra cash.

“I haven’t had to miss any bill payments yet, but the most stressful part is not knowing when it will reopen,” McMullen said. “My wife is pregnant, and she wants to go down to part-time at her job but not until we know that I will start getting paid again.”

Collette Johnson, Kent State alumna and administrative officer at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge System in Pleasants County, West Virginia, has been out of work since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018.

While out of work, she’s been coping mentally by keeping herself busy with volunteer work. Johnson, 38, is a volunteer firefighter with the Tuppers Plains Fire Department, where she also devotes some of her time serving as the fire department’s treasurer. Johnson said her volunteer work keeps her mind off of the current shutdown.

Financially, she’s had to not only cut corners, but take it a step further and apply for unemployment.

“The family and I usually go out to dinner once a week, so we’ve had to cut that out,” Johnson said. “I cancelled some subscriptions, like Amazon Prime and others. Just cutting down on any non-essential expense, and I’ve also applied for unemployment, but I’m still waiting for that. The process is quite slow.”

Due to the large amount of students affected by the shutdown, the university has started to help students. Helping students affected in the College of Communication and Information is AJ Leu, the CCI diversity director.

Since the start of the spring semester, Leu has seen a massive amount of students with financial issues linked to the shutdown. Students’ financial issues range from being unable to pay their tuition to being unable to purchase a required Adobe subscription.

“Some students can’t even pay their tuition because their checks aren’t coming through, which are supposed to pay that tuition,” Leu said. “Other students, have paid their tuition, everything seems fine when you pull them up in the system, they have a zero dollar balance, but they haven’t received their check or their payments aren’t getting their payments because they work for the federal government. And so, they can’t afford their books, or they can’t afford the Adobe subscription.”

Leu has been working with each affected student to help assess their financial situation and help them in any way that best benefits them. The college has created “emergency scholarships” for students affected by the government shutdown. Students were made aware of the emergency funds through an email sent by CCI and are encouraged to seek help from Leu should they need it.

Leu said the students coming to her for help have been determined and motivated to take care of the issues brought upon them by the shutdown.

“All the students I’ve met with are like, ‘Here’s what we gotta deal with,’” Leu said. “They’re being proactive and they’re trying to do everything they possibly can. I’m just one step on their list of trying to do everything they possibly can, and that’s the best situation to be in.”

Abby Miller is a features writer. Contact her at [email protected]


Research applications, funding on hold during shutdown 

Nicholas Hunter

Since the federal government partially shut down Dec. 22, a wide array of government entities have lost funding until it reopens.

THE SHUTDOWN AND FAFSA

Alexandra Sobczak

As the partial government shutdown continues, federal student aid is not directly affected. Some programs will remain unaffected because Congress already authorized the budget for the Department of Education.

Here is some information for students about programs that remain unaffected:

  • FAFSA application: Students can still fill out the FAFSA form and make payments on federal student loans as normal, according to an announcement from the Federal Student Aid Office in the Department of Education. The federal offices, contact centers and websites will remain open and functional.
  • The Federal TRiO Programs: These programs, which are student services programs largely for low-income students, will remain funded, according to an announcement from Central Washington University.
  • Federal Pell Grants, FSEOG grants, work-study programs and federal loans: All of these will be “disbursed as planned,” according to an announcement by UNCF.

Among those entities is the National Science Foundation (NSF). With a requested budget of more than $5.8 billion for 2018, the NSF provides a great deal of funding for hard science research at universities, including Kent State.

NSF staff members have been furloughed, which means they are barred from working — in-person at government offices or remotely — in any capacity.

With staff unable to do its jobs, work isn’t being done. This affects each shutdown department in different ways, but for the NSF, it halts all non-emergency functions. 

That means no research grant applications can be accepted, no updates can be processed for in-process grants, new grant opportunities can be announced and ongoing grants cannot be paid out, according to a fact sheet on the NSF website.

The only exceptions will be in the case of the Cooperative Support Branch, which will have staff ready in case of emergencies that would put lives or property at risk if not attended to.

Paul DiCorleto, the vice president for research and sponsored programs at Kent State, said the university will carry out ongoing research for the foreseeable future, despite the shutdown.

“The university just goes ahead and spends the money,  knowing that the government will pay the money when the check arrives, essentially,” DiCorleto said.

Despite the ability to keep ongoing research running, the shutdown is putting new work to a halt.

“Usually the delay in getting things back up and running is longer than the period when the government was shut,” he said. “So if the government is shut for one month, in some cases it could take two or three months before everything is back to normal. So this is a significant issue.”

In a letter published in Nature, a weekly international journal on science, Anne Jefferson, a professor of geology at Kent State, broke down the impact the shutdown could have on scientific research.

“In Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, we’ve planted thousands of saplings with the help of hundreds of volunteers,” Jefferson wrote in the letter. “Those tiny trees are supposed to be part of a decades-long experiment on the critical zone, the life-sustaining region from groundwater to treetops.

“The only thing that protects the saplings from hungry deer is a thin fence. And the Park Service rangers who protect the fence are furloughed — not working because they’re government employees.”

Jefferson also wrote that while her concerns lie deeply within the survival of long-term research projects, she’s worried about the well-being of scientists themselves.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” she wrote in the letter. “I can get paid and carry on with some research and teaching. (I receive funding from the National Science Foundation, which is affected by the shutdown, but hasn’t yet missed a scheduled payment for my projects.) Meanwhile, tens of thousands of federal scientists must sit idle, and others must work without pay.”

She also noted instances of the direct consequences of the shutdown she has seen on Twitter, including a graduate student losing health insurance and a postdoctoral fellow expressing worry about feeding his baby.

DiCorleto said there is little most researchers can do to prepare for a prolonged shutdown; because it’s in the hands of Congress and the president, until funding comes back, researchers have to wait and see what comes next.

“It’s a bit like the furloughed workers who aren’t receiving paychecks today,” DiCorleto said. “But as soon as the government is back in operation, they will receive their back pay.”

The shutdown started because of a dispute between the president, alongside Republican-controlled Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, and her fellow Democrats over providing $5.7 billion in funding for enhanced fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border.

In the meantime, DiCorleto said the shutdown isn’t starting a “crisis,” but will leave a lasting impact.

“It’s an impact where science gets delayed,” DiCorleto said. “It might be delayed by one month, it might bill delayed by three or four or five months.”

And in her letter, Jefferson wrote said these delays could have an impact on future careers and the field as a whole.

“Students tell me that they are rethinking their career plans,” Jefferson wrote. “They no longer see federal science jobs as a dependable choice. Graduate-school positions may be harder to attain, because programs lack funds that would normally have been awarded by now.

“Back-pay won’t replenish the loss of human capital: talent that leaves or stays away from government jobs will weaken US science for decades.”

Nicholas Hunter is a senior reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

 


AP: AP-NORC poll: Shutdown drags Trump approval to yearlong low

Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson / Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A strong majority of Americans blame President Donald Trump for the record-long government shutdown and reject his primary rationale for a border wall, according to a new poll that shows the turmoil in Washington is dragging his approval rating to its lowest level in more than a year.

Overall, 34 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance in a survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s down from 42 percent a month earlier and nears the lowest mark of his two-year presidency. The president’s approval among Republicans remains close to 80 percent, but his standing with independents is among its lowest points of his time in office.

“Trump is responsible for this,” said poll respondent Lloyd Rabalais, a federal contractor from Slidell, Louisiana, who’s not affiliated with either political party.

Graphic shows results of AP-NORC Center poll on President Donald Trump’s job approval and on attitudes toward the partial federal shutdown.

The 47-year-old has been furloughed for more than a month. He said he’d need to start drawing on his retirement savings next week to pay his bills if the shutdown continues.

“I do support a wall, but not the way he’s handling it,” Rabalais added. “Trump guaranteed everybody that Mexico would pay for the wall. Now he’s holding American workers like me hostage.”

The drop in approval comes as Trump begins the third year of his presidency under the weight of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, an international trade war that’s straining the global economy and new revelations about his push for a real estate deal in Russia during his 2016 campaign.

Compared with earlier presidents, Trump’s approval rating has been relatively stable over the course of his presidency, ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-40s.

By contrast, President Barack Obama never fell below 40 percent in polling by Gallup. Still, five presidents since Gallup began measuring presidential approval have had their rating fall into the 20s at least once, including Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Trump has never fallen into that range of historic lows, but he’s also the only president never to have reached 50 percent in Gallup’s polling.

The new AP-NORC poll shows most Americans see the shutdown as a major problem, and they blame Trump far more than congressional Democrats for the mess that has ensnared the lives of roughly 800,000 government workers who are going without pay.

Sixty percent of Americans say Trump bears a great deal of responsibility for the shutdown. About a third place the same amount of blame on congressional Democrats (31 percent) or Republicans (36 percent).

Sixty-five percent of Americans, including 86 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and 33 percent of Republicans, call the shutdown a major problem.

Trump may be popular overall with Republicans, but a sizable share holds him responsible for the current situation. Almost 3 in 10 Republicans think Trump bears a great deal of responsibility, while 73 percent of his party says he’s at least partly responsible.

“The large part of the responsibility belongs to the president because he made the decision,” said poll respondent Sandra Olson, of Northwood, Iowa. The 76-year-old registered Republican said she voted for Trump once and likely will again.

“We have never in my lifetime seen a president who has been so maligned and attacked and vilified,” Olson said.

Trump’s demand for a $5.7 billion border wall is also unpopular.

Overall, 49 percent of Americans oppose the plan to build a massive wall along the Mexican border; 36 percent of the nation is in favor. Opinions fall largely along ideological lines, with 8 in 10 Democrats opposing the wall and nearly 8 in 10 Republicans supporting it.

About 7 in 10 supporters of the wall prefer to extend the shutdown than to reach a deal without funding it, while a nearly identical number on the other side would rather the shutdown continue than provide that funding.

The poll shows significant skepticism of the president’s argument that a wall would significantly reduce crime, stem the flow of illegal drugs or help the U.S. economy. The poll was conducted the week after Trump used such factors to justify his demand for the wall during a primetime address from the Oval Office.

In the nationally televised speech, he highlighted the case of one immigrant in the country illegally accused of beheading and dismembering an American citizen.

About 6 in 10 Americans do say the wall would at least slightly decrease the number of people entering the U.S. illegally, though only 3 in 10 think the number would significantly decrease. Yet just 35 percent of Americans believe the wall would make the country safer, while a majority of Americans — 57 percent— believe it would make no difference to safety in the U.S. Only 21 percent believe the wall would significantly reduce the availability of illegal drugs in the nation, though 28 percent say access to illegal drugs would be slightly reduced; 49 percent say the wall would have no effect.

On the economy, about as many Americans say the border wall would do more to help — almost 3 in 10 — as say it would do more to hurt; 43 percent say the wall would not make much difference to the U.S. economy.

Poll respondent Kelley Thorson, of St. Robert, Missouri, who backed Trump in the 2016 election, says she supports the wall but largely disagrees with the president’s rationale.

“I can’t say it would make us safer,” the 57-year-old said. “Criminals are going to get here no matter what.”

While partisan opinions of Trump have remained relatively constant throughout his presidency, the poll shows that disapproval has grown particularly among independents who do not lean toward either party.

Just 28 percent of independents say they approve, compared with 71 percent who disapprove. In December, 37 percent of independents approved of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapproved.

Women also are more likely to disapprove today compared with a month ago — 71 percent to 58 percent. And 76 percent of college graduates disapprove today, compared with 65 percent who disapproved in December.

The president isn’t doing anything well right now, said poll respondent J. Edwin Hixson, a 71-year-old retired truck driver from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who didn’t vote for Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

“This isn’t a reality show. We’re in serious trouble,” he said.

___

The AP-NORC poll of 1,062 adults was conducted Jan. 16 to 20 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.