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Mason talks government shutdown

BY GRETA MEYLE | OCTOBER 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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With a persisting national government shutdown, student-veterans and researching faculty are among the most affected at the University of Iowa.

Referencing a delay in research applications and complications for student-veteran benefits, UI President Sally Mason said in an interview Tuesday that the shutdown has overall taken a slight toll on the university.

“Faculty are the ones that are submitting the research proposals—so it’s affecting their research,” Mason told The Daily Iowan. “And for veteran students, if their benefits aren’t coming, in other words if the money they need to go to school isn’t being sent to them, we’re putting in place no-interest loans for them.”

But in the face of Mason’s concerns, Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he believes veterans should be safe.

“What the university will do is have the veterans be held harmless, which means they will suspend their bills,” he said. “They will wait for the federal government to come to its senses.”

Still, one state Board of Regent member concurred with Mason’s sentiments about the effect on student-veterans.

“I am very concerned about this,” Regent Robert Downer said. “These are people who have served our country — they have earned the benefits that they have received … they answered the call of duty, and as a result, I think we are obligated to pay them.”

Because of shutdown limitations, Downer said, he has witnessed benefits that were due to families of military members killed in active duty that have yet to be paid in a timely manner.

While a representative from the UI Veteran’s Center said that the shutdown hasn’t significantly affected anybody yet, that will change come Nov. 1, when a potential for payments to cease pending no government bipartisan consensus.

A second effect affects university research.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said that all research proposals will eventually be submitted but maintained that it may take a current toll on research at the university. The university processes nine research proposals per day, totaling $2 million.

“New proposals cannot be submitted because the funding agencies are closed,” Moore wrote in an email. “Research projects that were funded before the shutdown remain in operation.”

Moore also said that an extensive government shutdown could lead to potential delays in the flow of federal funds to the UI, especially in terms of its hospitals and clinics.

“When you’re at a research school as we are with the University of Iowa, medical researchers are held hostage because they depend on this government funding each year and if the funding isn’t verified and if the funding isn’t implemented, we will see a number of pink slips being issued,” Jacoby said. “It means we could fall years behind in some of our research.”

Jacoby said there will be widespread effects at the UI, state, and national levels if the debt ceiling is reached. If the measure occurs, it would be left up to the state to pick up additional revenue sources, or no funding will be provided.

“It will affect the university across the board,” Jacoby said. “Not only in the availability for research grants but also for the availability for education.”

Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, said he believes an overall resolution lies in the hands of the federal government.

“When the federal funding is not reliable maybe it’s time we go back and look at how much we’re relying on federal funding,” Baltimore said. “If [the federal government is] not going to actually adopt a budget like we do at the state Legislature … then the state has no choice but to reconsider the extent to which we depend on federal funding.”

And although noting that the UI is doing what it can to ease effects from the shutdown, Mason said she was frustrated about the current stalemate.

“None of this is good; gridlock is never good,” Mason said. “It’s not good for the university, it’s not good for the country, and it’s certainly not good for the citizens of the state of Iowa or anyone else for that matter. It’s a very unfortunate situation.”


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