The new fiscal year rang in at midnight Tuesday, but a disagreement between the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate over an unapproved budget forced the first federal shutdown in 17 years.
The controversy surrounding the disputed budget and government shutdown involved a debate about how the government would begin funding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care initiative, which went into effect Tuesday as well.
The act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” was signed into law March 23, 2010. Some of the changes it made included preventing insurance companies from turning people away because of preexisting medical conditions and extending care to children of policy owners until age 26.
Congress could not decide upon a budget to pass by Tuesday, pushing the government into a shutdown. Federal workers who fall in a category called “essential” continued working without pay, while workers in the category “non-essential” had a half-day to prepare before being furloughed, meaning they were given a temporary unpaid leave. Active-service military members are set to be paid, though, however long the shutdown lasts, according to The Washington Post.
Some of the “essential” departments include the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. military. The “non-essential” departments included the National Park Service, some of the Social Security Administration and most of NASA.
One OSU department that relies heavily on federal grants for funding is the Office of Research. Vice President for Research Caroline Whitacre said the length of the shutdown is what matters most.
“The biggest thing from our perspective is how long it lasts. If it’s only a few days, then we will be OK,” she said.
Whitacre said the federal grants issued for October have been paid to the university. Research grants submitted to the National Institutes of Health, though, for example, would be accepted, but not processed.
An extended shutdown would hurt research technicians the most, Whitacre said. OSU would have to allocate internal funding to pay employees who are typically paid with money from federal grants.
There is no word yet on how long it will take to approve a federal budget. Representatives from the university and the OSU Office of Student Financial Aid did not respond to requests for comment.