A federal government shutdown appears likely to begin Sunday as Congress is running out of time to enact $1.6 trillion in discretionary spending for the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
But Johns Hopkins University officials say the institution is prepared to navigate the potential risks an extended shutdown might pose to grant administration, federal financial aid, immigration processing, and other government funded services.
Mandatory services from Medicare and Medicaid are not subject to annual appropriation votes by Congress, allowing for patient care to continue without interruption. Most importantly, Johns Hopkins students who receive federal financial aid will not be penalized if the shutdown delays their payments to the university.
University officials are monitoring the National Institutes of Health and other federal government sponsors of research. For now, all sponsored activities should proceed as usual unless a specific request is made by the federal sponsor for a given project, officials said. Any new information and instructions from federal agencies about no-cost extensions, new grant applications, and other grant-related issues will be communicated to researchers and faculty.
Students whose internships with federal agencies are temporarily delayed or canceled can visit the Johns Hopkins Imagine Center between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with additional staff available to help after 1 p.m. For a directory of Life Design Educators by departments, students can visit imagine.jhu.edu.
The university withstood the federal government's two previous shutdowns—16 days in 2013 and a partial shutdown lasting 35 days in 2018-2019—without widespread disruptions to student learning, faculty research, or clinical operations. In fact, Johns Hopkins is more financially stable today than it was during those short pauses in government operations, officials said.
"We want to assure the entire Johns Hopkins community that the financial position of the university remains strong and capable of managing what we hope will be minimal disruptions to our community and operations," said Laurent Heller, executive vice president for finance and administration.
For 43 years, Johns Hopkins has led all U.S. universities in federally funded research and development spending. Approximately 49% of the university's consolidated revenues derive from federal agencies related to sponsored research, with four departments accounting for nearly all those funds: Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, NASA, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. In fiscal year 2022, the university received approximately $3.6 billion from government agencies, with nearly $2 billion going to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
"We have been working to ensure that APL will navigate any potential shutdown with minimal impact to our staff and our work," APL Director Ralph Semmel wrote in a message to staff. He also noted that APL is financially healthy, and that because of the "great contributions of staff members," there is a backlog of funded work that will help mitigate disruptions.
Johns Hopkins students who are citizens of other nations did not experience serious issues to their status in the United States during the previous shutdowns. The university did not experience any cash flow challenges during those two shutdowns, and researchers with approved grants are unlikely to experience short-term disruptions.
Medicare and Medicaid payments—which amount to about $832 million, or 11% of revenues—may experience some processing delays if the shutdown extends beyond four weeks, but the university expects minor to no immediate impact.
The university is monitoring the potential impacts from a longer-than-usual shutdown, which could include:
- Stop-work orders on some government contracts
- The inability of faculty members to apply for new grants at usual deadlines
- Delayed reviews of grant applications
- Limited availability of government research tools such as databases and equipment
- Discontinued student internships at federal agencies
Delays in the processing of certain immigration forms. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which includes visa and passport operations, is fee-funded and typically not disrupted if the government shuts down.
The university continues to monitor the situation and is reviewing the formal guidance that federal agencies have provided to the White House Office of Management and Budget. The hiatus's impact is expected to vary among agencies because federal law grants the executive branch some discretion over managing the funding lapse.
"We have leveraged all our experience from 2013 and 2018 to be fully prepared for this shutdown," said Melisa Lindamood, interim vice president for the Johns Hopkins Office of Federal Strategy. "An 11th hour resolution is still possible, but increasingly unlikely."
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