Updated: Impact of the partial government shutdown on Emory University

Emory Report | Oct. 7, 2013

Emory University leaders are working closely with colleagues in the research and higher education community, including the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and other partners, to determine the impact of the partial federal government shutdown on the Emory community and its various entities.  

"As the government shutdown continues, we are experiencing some short-term effects, particularly on biomedical research," says President James Wagner. “We are concerned about the very real impact the shutdown may have in the long-term on the lives of our community members, particularly our patients, researchers and students. We are actively involved in preparing for and managing the effects of these issues on the university's operation and on our community."

This situation is likely to change frequently over the coming days and weeks. Below are frequently asked questions, which will be updated and supplemented as more information becomes available:  

Updated Oct. 10, 2013

Frequently asked questions

How is Emory University being impacted by the shutdown?

Currently, the impact is minimal, but this could change dramatically if the shutdown continues over the coming weeks.  

What is the impact on federal financial aid?

Funding for most federal student aid has continued with no impact thus far. Because most of the Federal Student Aid programs are forward funded from last year’s budget, most of the funding is already in place for 2013-14. Federal Pell Grants and Loans should not be impacted in the short term. However, we remain concerned for the 55 percent of our student body who have applied for federal financial aid. Processing of aid applications and related systems could be impacted if the shutdown becomes prolonged. For example, students who are required to provide an IRS tax transcript could have challenges doing so if IRS systems become compromised.  

Impact on the Woodruff Health Sciences Center

What is the impact on federally funded health sciences research?

Emory received $333.8 million in federal research funding in fiscal year 2013, mostly in the health sciences. An immediate impact for Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center is on research administration and communications with NIH and other federal agencies about research grant applications, progress reports, awards and requests. Reviews of submitted applications will not occur or will be delayed, opportunities for new federal funding programs are not being issued and new awards are not being made. NIH program contacts are not available, and at least one CDC-sponsored study at Emory has been halted. It is difficult to predict what will result from a longer-term shutdown, but a protracted shutdown will slow critical research and have a cumulative effect, with missed grant deadlines and reviews, delay of new and continuation awards, limited interactions with program staff, and a backlog of reporting and regulatory issues. Lengthy delays can create funding gaps in ongoing research programs.

What is the impact on federally funded clinical research trials at Emory?

Most federally funded clinical trials that already are underway at Emory are continuing. However, the NIH research administrators who support these trials are not available and this may create barriers. Winship Cancer Institute clinical trials conducted with National Cancer Institute (NCI) support are still open, with the exception of trials requiring active involvement of NCI through registration of participants.

What about safety of the patients in these clinical trials?

Enrolling clinical trials are being conducted under established institutional and federal safety guidelines. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offices are open for drug distribution and handling of patient safety information on a 24-hour basis during the shutdown, and other emergency NIH contacts for clinical trials are available.

What about new clinical trials?

The initiation of new federally sponsored clinical trials will be increasingly impacted if the shutdown continues. For example, the Winship Cancer Institute has submitted four new trial concepts or amendments to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) since the shutdown. They will remain on hold until the shutdown ends.  

How does the shutdown impact the availability of medical research information?

Several national research databases are either unavailable or minimally staffed during the shutdown. National Science Foundation websites and business applications are unavailable: NSF.gov, FastLane, and Research.gov. The researcher website pubmed.gov, which compiles results of medical studies from around the world, is minimally staffed. This minimal availability of research websites means researchers, both laboratory and clinical, have less up-to-date information, which could affect their research, their interactions with research collaborators, and access to the latest reported treatment results.

What is the impact on Emory research programs and faculty at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center?

Health care for veterans, provided by 250 Emory School of Medicine faculty physicians, is continuing without impact.  Existing Emory research programs conducted at the VA, however, are being run on a limited budget, and new research project starts are being delayed.

What is the impact on Emory research programs conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

The CDC Import Permit Program has shut down nonessential operations, meaning Emory researchers who obtain research materials from CDC under permit could experience delays in research. Some CDC-funded research projects also have beenhalted; for example, a research project focused on donated blood and blood products.  

How is the shutdown affecting CDC programs that include Emory faculty?

Many Emory faculty physicians and public health experts, particularly in the areas of global public health and infectious diseases, serve on CDC working groups and as consultants on disease outbreaks and surveillance and vaccine guidelines. Many of these efforts may be delayed during the shutdown.

How is the shutdown complicated by sequestration?

Since Congress was unable to reach an agreement last year on how to reduce our national deficit, automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, took effect on March 1, 2013. The goal of sequestration is to lower spending by approximately $1.1 trillion versus pre-sequester levels over the approximately 8 year period from 2013 to 2021.
 
Sequestration continues to be a major concern for Emory. The 5 percent sequestration cut in federal research funding significantly impacted Emory's researchers this year with a $17.7 million decrease in federal funding in FY2013. With respect to FY2014, our anticipated research funding loss may be as much as an additional $24 million.
 
Moreover, in FY2013, Emory Healthcare experienced a $7 million loss in Medicare provider cuts due to a 2 percent sequester cut. For FY2014, this loss could grow to an additional $16.6 million.
 
In terms of student financial aid, sequestration resulted in an estimated $278,000 reduction to Emory’s Work Study program and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) from 2012 to 2013. This loss resulted in approximately 100 fewer Work-Study awards and 30 fewer SEOG awards.
 
Looking ahead, on January 1, 2014, the impact of the second year of the sequester cuts will begin to be felt with reductions to non-defense discretionary spending (i.e., the areas mentioned above) of an additional 7.2 percent. In addition our Medicare providers would see another 2 percent cut in 2014.

For additional questions or follow-up, please contact Charlie Harman, Emory vice president for government and community affairs at 404-727-8876 ot charlie.harman@emory.edu.