The following text is excerpted from a post on the daily forum of the Grant Professionals Association website. The author, who gave permission for us to share this, is a grant writer with 18 years of experience who specializes government grant writing. Her comments were in response to a question from another forum participant who asked about the effects of the government shutdown.
The writer’s opinion about the long term impacts, based on her experience and connections, gave us enough concern that we felt it was important to share:
The impacts of the shutdown will, in my opinion, be experienced for years to come. The immediate impacts of the shutdown include so many delays. Just think how much of a backlog you would have if you were suddenly gone from the office for more than a month, with no one to do your work! Now multiply that by hundreds of thousands of employees. Yes, it's that bleak. As one of my good friends who works for HUD put it...I was already so far behind that getting caught up was improbable...now it's a myth!
In addition to the delays grantees have experienced in payments, many are waiting for answers to questions, policy interpretations, approvals for changes in their program or grant budgets, etc. There has also been a delay in issuing RFPs that will just scrunch the calendar for the whole year (making grant professionals like us, lose our minds later in the year)!
My bigger concern is the brain drain. I used to work in DC and knew many of the program officers and higher level folks in several departments. Many left shortly after the inauguration. Others waited...holding on out of a sense of civic responsibility or just holding out for retirement. I'm now hearing rumblings that some of the program officers I deal with a lot are either actively looking (yes, a few have asked if they can use me as a reference) or have resigned. One of my dearest friends decided to go to the private sector where, as he put it, I'll earn more and likely have greater security in terms of getting a paycheck!
I also predict that the loss of institutional knowledge will impact programs for years to come in so many ways. For example, many of our program officers act as active advocates for their programs with Congress (through report writing, relationships with staff, subcommittee staff, etc.). Now imagine that person, with 20 years of knowledge as to how to get things done, is gone. That's the reality. Federal employees, who have been vilified by political extremists and reporting in the media, already had very low morale levels -- imagine how they must feel now, knowing that this whole shutdown mess might come back in 3 weeks, and then again later this year. Now, with the uncertainty of whether or not the politicians can govern, would you stay? If you knew that your paycheck was dependent on what many consider a dysfunctional mess in our country, would you stay?
Now consider that federal employees who leave will have to be replaced. How can they possibly recruit new, high qualified individuals? Don't we want the best and the brightest? Doesn't our country deserve the best and the brightest? Further, department heads are under pressure to reduce head count, which often means that more and more contractors are used. Knowing that contractors are not protected during shutdowns, would you want a federal contract? In the news today is a report of a small business that is likely going to go belly up because of not having any revenues for more than a month. Also, there's another piece about an employee of a contractor who lost her health insurance in the shutdown and how that's impacting her family (her husband has MS and was hospitalized without insurance). She's apparently worked for an agency as an employee of a contractor for more than 10 years in the Mine Safety and Health Administration. I know if I were her, I'd be looking for another job where my family's health insurance was stable.
The brain drain -- that's the really big impact that we will feel for years to come. Just my $0.02.
Karen L. Cassidy, GPC
Governmental Grant Professionals, LLC