Americans are becoming inoculated by government shutdowns. While the present shutdown has furloughed or withheld pay from almost a million workers, most Americans don’t feel the impact of shutdowns directly. However, these crises that have become all too common can have substantive impacts on America’s health in ways that can’t be immediately helped, and science, education, and women’s rights are some of the most prominent and silent victims.
What Does the Current Shutdown Affect?
What many Americans don’t recognize is that each shutdown is unique. That’s because they’re predicated on which agencies have received funding and which are left shutdown. While the current shutdown only affects a quarter of the government, that still means that nine different departments are out of operation. While the impact had on parks and museums, airport security, and the IRS are receiving a lot of attention, there are a number of agencies that don’t receive such a focus. These include science-based agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA.
The Effect on Science
Over half a dozen science-based organizations are feeling the burn from the shutdown. In addition to the EPA and NASA, these include the National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All of these organizations either fund or conduct research. That means that many scientists are furloughed without pay and prohibited from even working at home. Additionally, a travel ban has been implemented that affects their ability to attend international conferences. That latter issue is a big blow to climate change research, and the short term pinch could have long term impacts on America’s credibility in the international scientific community.
The Effect on Education
While K-12 programs won’t be greatly affected by the shutdown and the actual learning experience for college students will largely continue with business as usual, most higher education facilities rely on research for much of their funding and reputation. While private research grants won’t be directly affected, many university researchers work in conjunction with government agencies to do their work or lean on those agencies for funding, data, and other resources. That means that many of these studies could grind to a halt as the government shutdown continues.
The Effect on Women’s Rights
The Violence Against Women Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in regards to providing support to survivors of domestic violence, but current funding stopped entirely last month. While grants for associated programs had already been assigned by the Justice Department, the shutdown has put the actual payments on hold. Until the government resumes, many of the most critical programs for helping women escape domestic violence will be inaccessible entirely. Others will have to tighten their belts and rely exclusively on local funds while they weather the storm.