Effects of the Government Shutdown on Federal Health Grants
Effects of the Government Shutdown on Federal Health Grants

During and after the two-week shutdown of the federal government this month, I was asked numerous times about the impact on federal grants. The short answer is, yes, there was (and continues to be) a negative impact. Discretionary grantmaking is one of many victims of legislators’ inability to appropriate funds for FY 2014 (which started on October 1, 2013).

In addition to the lack of funds to appropriate, the nearly 800,000 federal employees who were furloughed for two weeks created a massive backlog among administrators within the federal government’s 26 grantmaking agencies. During the shutdown, grant officers weren’t available for questions, technical assistance calls were canceled without notice, and countless prospective grant programs turned into wild cards. Some federal grant deadlines have been extended but many are still up in the air. For current and prospective grantees, if you can get a hold of your program officer, be kind. They’ll be playing catch-up with angry customers for awhile. 

The shutdown also caused dire consequences beyond grantseekers and those who were furloughed. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, had to turn away about 400 new patients for clinical trials, many of whom have failed standard treatments for life-threatening illnesses. Down the hall and across the country, important medical research among  NIH investigators was put on hold after workers were sent home. 

Wondering how the shutdown affected the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Despite the ironic timing of the launch of the health insurance marketplaces on the same day the shutdown began, much of the ACA is funded by previous appropriations that are immune to federal budget negotiations. But don’t be fooled…the ACA has plenty of its own challenges. Stay tuned for future posts about those challenges and the administration’s response.