Pass the budget

Shutdown may defund GI Bill

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Jasmine Aguilera, Editor-in-chief

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said students should not be impacted by the partial government shutdown as long as it reopens before Oct. 17, which marks Congress’s deadline to raise the debt ceiling that could prevent a default.

In an Oct. 5 interview, O’Rourke said those who receive assistance through the GI Bill might see a delay in funding should the shutdown extend past October.

“This adds urgency to our efforts to resolve this,” O’Rourke said. He also said he is certain Congress can reach a compromise before Oct. 17.

Holly Denney, director of the Military Student Success Center, said this could have a detrimental affect on the 1,500 to 1,600 UTEP students who receive GI Bill benefits.

“If students don’t have other resources to pay their bills, mortgages, installment plans for tuition and fees, then they will feel the impact if GI Bill funding ends in October,” she said.

Denney said there are other options for students on the GI Bill, including federal financial aid, state resources and Hazelwood benefits if students aren’t using them already.

Muhammad Saad Sheikh, sophomore media advertising major, was in the Army from 2004 to 2013 and served two combat tours in Iraq. He said veterans need the government paycheck to maintain their living while going to school.

“I just hope it doesn’t come down to that because we feel, as veterans, we’ve done our time. We’ve been through the military, we know how it is now,”
Sheikh said. “As students, we heavily depend on it and I would hate to see it go that way.”

Sheikh said veterans with disabilities would find it hard to work an extra job and others who experienced a learning gap between high school and college need to concentrate soley on school.

“Now if that is affected you’ll see a lot of veterans pretty much not getting good grades because they have to get a job to support themselves,” he said. “They need to live somewhere, and it would heavily, heavily affect their grades on campus.”

Sheikh said veterans would lose GI Bill benefits if grades start to sink, while balancing work and school.

The shutdown has put 800,000 government employees temporarily out of work, including 43,000 in El Paso—13.6 percent of all workers—placing the city at No. 5 of the top 10 metro areas with a high share of federal employees, according to an Oct. 2 study by The Washington Post.

Most federal employees in El Paso work at Fort Bliss or for Customs and Border Protection and many are now working without knowing when they will receive their next paycheck.

This could have an impact on the local economy if the shutdown persists because the high percentage of federal workers not making money means less is spent
within the community, O’Rourke said.

On Oct. 5, the El Paso Congressman voted for a bill approving back pay for workers who are not being paid during the shutdown, which was passed unanimously in the House.

The government shut down on Oct. 1 when the House and Senate could not negotiate a funding bill due to the House’s added provisions that would delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The funding bill must pass in order for the government to reopen, but some House members do not want to remove the Affordable Care Act provisions.

“All of us, including Republicans, want to find a solution for this funding bill,” O’Rourke said. “The solution is a bill that doesn’t have any strings attached.”

O’Rourke also said he is willing to vote on a House bill that contains significant cuts in order to reopen the government.

“They are more than what I am comfortable with, but I’ll vote on it if it means having a working government,” he said.

Sheikh said he hopes politicians can resolve their differences before veteran students feel the impact.

“I just hate to see that when two parties don’t agree they try to take money from people who really deserve it,” he said. “Now, what they should do is they should cut their own paycheck. They should not have that clause where members of Congress—where their pay is not affected because they’re not able to make rational decisions because it is not directly affecting them.”

For more information on GI Bill funding, contact the Military Student Services Center at 747-5342 or visit academics.utep.edu/mssc.

Kristopher Rivera contributed to this story.

Jasmine Aguilera may be reached at [email protected]