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Government Shutdown Information

Dear UNC Scholars, 

As many of you are aware, the federal government has not yet passed an appropriations bill to fund government operations beyond this Friday, Nov. 17. A full or partial shutdown is possible. Each federal agency will likely handle the nuances of a government shutdown and determination of essential personnel differently.   

You can read about how each agency operates in a shutdown by looking at the agency contingency plans on the White House Office of Management and Budget website.

We hope for a swift resolution to the current situation, but we must also be prepared for potential challenges. UNC and ORSP are following this situation closely and will share information as it becomes available.

In general, during a government shutdown, no new awards will be made by federal sponsors. Projects for which the federal sponsor has already obligated funds will be allowed to continue spending, unless informed differently by the agency sponsor or the prime awardee in the case of federal flow-through awards/subawards. This means that you should be able to continue working on federally funded projects. For example, NSF’s contingency plan notes that there will be personnel available to process cash payments to grantees for existing awards, and that awardees may continue performance under their NSF awards during a lapse in appropriations to the extent funds are available and the period of performance has not expired.   

Technical assistance from federal agencies will likely not be available, although reporting and submission portals may remain open during a lapse in appropriations. In addition, we know from previous shutdowns that a short funding lapse (i.e., shutdown) can result in missed panels, a backlog of proposal actions at the agencies and delays that ultimately could result in the cancellation of some research and related activities. Research agencies will not be able to begin new programs, issue new grants, enter into new contracts or review existing applications during a shutdown.

At this time, it is not clear whether a shutdown would delay deadlines for grant proposals. As such, unless you hear differently from a sponsor or ORSP, we recommend that you continue to prepare proposals and proceed as if there will be no change in grant submission deadlines. If you are alerted to a change in sponsor deadline, notify your pre-award GCA and Pamela Keener as soon as possible so we can determine the best way to proceed. Likewise, ORSP will follow up with affected investigators should we hear differently.

Here are proactive tips for November: 

  • Identify federally funded grants that expire in November-December and request extensions if needed.
  • Resolve pending programmatic issues with your program officials before Nov. 17, anticipating potential federal office disruptions. This includes items such as re-budgeting or pre-authorization for unbudgeted travel or equipment purchases.    
  • Be aware that some federal contracts contain a clause that gives the federal agency sponsor the right to order the university to stop performing work; check with Nancy Schindele, ORSP Post-Award and/or your program officials to understand whether the agency is likely to exercise this right, which would impact reimbursements for expenses during the shutdown. 
  • New and continuing awards will be delayed. Be wary of employment commitments on these awards because start dates will be impacted.
  • Ensure expenses are posted to the grant prior to Nov. 17. Jeff Martin, Grant Accountant, will draw down expenses posted by Nov. 17.
  • Extended shutdowns might result in more frequent cancellations of research-related travel and conferences, affecting networking opportunities and dissemination of research findings.
  • Adhere to currently posted guidelines for grant submissions. Deadlines after Nov. 17 may be affected; monitor submission portals or agency websites for updates. 

Please direct specific proposal or project inquiries to:

  • Carman Melendrez if you are working with her on developing your proposal.
  • Your pre-award GCA (Pamela Keener, Sol Adams or Hannan Danon), or Nancy Schindele/post-award, as appropriate.
  • FOAP/account related questions should be directed to Jeff Martin.

We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available. Any notices received from specific sponsors will be forwarded to keep you all updated.

We value your dedication to research and remain committed to supporting you during these uncertain times.


Jeri-Anne Lyons, Ph.D
Associate Vice President for Research
Dean, Graduate School