January 14, 2019: We sent the statement below to U.S. Senator Cory Gardner; a similar one was sent to U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and all 7 U.S. Representatives from Colorado with nuanced edits based on their public comments about the shutdown.
January 13, 2019
The Honorable Cory Gardner
United States Senate
354 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: Government Shutdown Impacts to Colorado
Dear Senator Gardner,
Thank you for your support of the ecosystem of brilliant scientists and researchers and all the related innovative companies and organizations that nurture the tax-payer funded research labs in Colorado. Your understanding of their economic and intellectual value is greatly appreciated.
I represent a consortium of federally-funded scientific research entities in Colorado and I write to you regarding the negative impacts our network and our state is experiencing borne of the federal government shutdown. I share these details with the intention they become part of conversations regarding the urgent need to end the shutdown via Congressional action.
CO-LABS knows you have foregone your salary until the shutdown ends as a sign of solidarity and spoken publicly on the need to end the shutdown. Thank you for talking this stand. We ask you to build on that spirit and vocally insist your colleagues recognize the value of scientific research within so many government agencies and approve the necessary appropriations bills to restart the federal government.
The implications of the shutdown cannot be overstated. In Colorado we estimate at least 5000 federal employees (within just the research labs) have been directly affected and furloughed, with a few hundred deemed
“excepted” - required to work - and they are all entering a fourth week of no pay.
Scientists, researchers and employees of various skills have chosen to work for the federal government research labs because there is more to the job than just a paycheck. At their core they take pride in – and are compelled by – their daily contribution to helping make America and the world a better place.
That said, beginning on December 22, 2018:
• Thousands of federal employees in Colorado and thousands of contractors working with federal agencies were frozen out of their projects – without pay.
• Loss of continuous data and necessary monitoring activity to maintain accurate and worthwhile information for projects involving water pollution, air quality, tectonic deformation, food production, climate trends, livestock health, cyber security, telecommunications, forest health, fossil fuel extraction and transportation technology – on hold, hobbled and at best barely functioning
• Agency approvals of permits of various kinds for intra-government and private sector activities – On Hold indefinitely
• On university campuses, joint research projects suspended, grad students' grant funding suspended; some non-resident students' visas could be deemed invalid as they aren't "employed".
• All training, education programs, travel for conferences and presentations by federal employees suspended - loss of best practices sharing, relationships suffer with private sector. Also, loss of prepaid conference, training, airfare, hotel, etc. funds means tax dollars lost.
Closely tied to the federal workers’ and contractors’ hard stop on funding is the equally harsh impacts rippling throughout the communities where they live:
• Countless service providers from car repair shops to math tutors to pet care centers to dentists also have abrupt drops in their income as appointments are cancelled and their invoices go unpaid
• Restaurants, retailer and entertainment venues cut hours of their staff as their activity drops as federal workers stay home
• Non-profits and volunteer-oriented organizations lose donations and participation of federal workers
Other impacts on furloughed employees include negative ratings to their credit reports even if they receive forbearance of mortgage or credit card debt; the challenges of finding loans from family or friends and managing the stress of not knowing what will happen.
There is the brain drain from crucial projects as furloughed employees make the reasonable effort to interview and take jobs with other entities. Note this does not mean they are necessarily taking jobs in a similar field; people are taking jobs that are immediately available and do not utilize their scientific skills. The research labs will subsequently have staffing gaps to manage, additionally delaying scientific progress. Finally, this scenario makes it harder to recruit working for the government, as political forces affecting your pay is not alluring.
Our federal research labs have missions that engages every employee on a path of discovering solutions and solving puzzles that move our country forward and maintains our global leadership. Being treated as dispensable, being taken for granted, being overlooked and minimized, being told to work for no pay – none of this is acceptable. They deserve your continued and immediate help to end this shutdown.
Thank you for considering these points. We are available to provide further data at your request.
See attached: Examples of affected federal research projects
Started in 2007, CO-LABS is a non-profit consortium of federal laboratories, research institutions, businesses and economic development organizations that promote the retention and expansion of Colorado’s federally funded scientific resources. To learn more, visit www.CO-LABS.org.