Last night Congress passed a bill to allow the government to re-open as early as today, October 17, 2013. President Obama signed the measure into law early this morning. The bill offers only a short-term stopgap response to the issues that led to the shutdown we just experienced. That is, the bill extends funding for the federal government through January 15, 2014, and raises the federal debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. As such, although the government is back in business, there is much work to be done between now and January.
The direct impact as it relates to student financial aid, of course, is that federal employees will be returning to work. This will prevent any further backlogs or delays in the Federal Student Aid system and processes. Fortunately, the government shutdown, although naturally affecting some situations, was comparatively low in overall disruption of day to day processing.
Of immediate importance are two points. First, the influences of sequestration are still in effect. The bill passed last night did not eliminate sequestration. Therefore, the prior guidance the U.S. Department of Education (ED) disseminated in various informational pieces related to sequestration are still pertinent. The most recent sequestration information released by ED was in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-13-22, published last week.
The other point of attention at present is that ED did announce yesterday that the deadline date for this year’s required annual submission of a school’s Campus Security Report (and, if applicable, Fire Safety Report) is postponed due to the fact that ED’s reporting system was down as a result of the government shutdown. The report’s deadline was previously to have been yesterday, October 16, 2013. ED has stated that once the Department is back open and systems are again appropriately operational, a new deadline for this year’s Annual Campus Security Report will be announced. However, it is important to note that although the deadline for submitting the institution’s Campus Security Report to ED is delayed, schools are still subject to the requirement of the Clery Act to have released their Annual Campus Security Report to its students and employees by October 1. That deadline was not postponed and ED will enforce this deadline when doing campus program reviews, etc.
Concerning the bill passed last night, there is much work to be done near-term to prepare for the end date of the stopgap measure Congress approved and the president signed. A bipartisan budget conference committee consisting of key members of Congress will be working between now and mid-December to come up with a longer-term solution that will hopefully eliminate the current sequestration and give more stability to funding and operations beyond the respite provided by last night’s stopgap measure. Of particular interest is the potential impact on Federal Pell Grant and Campus-Based funding for 2014-2015 if appropriate resolution is not reached.
Continue to watch for the most recent information in FAME’s regular “Did You Know?” articles and future editions of FAME’s Inside Report.
(NTN101713; EA101613; VNR)