Friday, April 8, 2011

About That Emergency Fund...

Post Edit: Well farfanoogin. Josh was just told post-docs (which he is) still come to work and still get paid. Is that true? Could that have been mentioned a week ago? Ugh.

So, Josh works for the National Institutes of Health...the medical research people. He has a (admittedly, brand new) PhD in molecular and microbial pathogenesis and his gross pay is less than $50K/year. The particular NIH campus he works on has been told each lab will be allowed to designate 2 people as essential workers. Those people will still go to work in the event of a government shutdown to make sure that the BL3 and BL4 stay safe, and years worth of research aren't lost because a freezer gets unplugged or something. In Josh's lab, the big boss man is obviously the 1st essential worker, so there was only one slot left and that went to the guy doing what's been deemed the most important research. Those two people will continue to go to work and their pay will be delayed, but they will get paid.

The campus is on a bit of a perpetual lock-down--we can't even go visit. There is a perimeter fence and numerous guards on duty 24/7. The workers go through a fairly extensive screening when they start working there (one of those "look WAY back into your past" things), routinely have their cars inspected if they park in the parking lot, and need to use their key card under the watchful eye of security to even step foot past the gate, there are more involved security measures to get near any of the dangerous germs they work with.

So in the event of a shutdown, access is immediately denied to anyone not on the essential worker list. This means he can't go work on his research even if he's willing to do it for free. Our life revolves around research. There is little chance to move forward, find the next job or get a raise without data.

In the short-term, his next paycheck would be short and while he may eventually get that money back, it would require congress passing a specific resolution to pay them, and I'm sure there would be an uproar over paying people who weren't working (even though they didn't have a choice in the matter, had to be "on call" to go back when the shutdown ends and have families to feed and mortgages to pay).

Then there's the uncertainty of it all. We just have to sit around and wait and see if things are open Monday or not. If they're not, we have to sit around and wait day to day to know when they're going to re-open. He has had to put experiments on hold because things often need to be done on a certain time frame and he can't start anything now that will require work on Wednesday because he doesn't know if he'll be there Wednesday. He has to freeze back cells he's working with and then get them growing again whenever he gets back. Shutting down for a day interrupts research for much longer than just that day. Especially when you're not even allowed to go in for 30 minutes and just "keep the lights on" so to speak.

Money-wise, we have been working on building up our emergency fund, so that part's fine, but supremely frustrating. We were just getting a comfortable cushion built up. We have about 2 months of expenses in cash savings, plus the ability to charge more on credit cards if we really had to. Any lost income will obviously come out of our travel budget first though and that stinks because it takes a lot of saving to get together enough money to go visit our families. I have no clue what happens to our health insurance, but I think it stays. (that's the other fun part, there is very little official information coming out, we just have to watch the news for some of this).

And we're still waiting to see what kind of funding NIH will even get when they DO agree on a budget. Did I mention that two of the big deciding factors for moving here were the research resources available and the stability of a federal government job?

Just a small insight from the direct impact on one family.

1 comment:

Tamara said...

I am sorry you are going through this Kimberly.


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