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The Daily Tar Heel

Assault cases may be put on hold

As the government continues into the fourth day of the federal shutdown, many services are suspended — possibly including the three pending federal investigations into sexual assault cases at UNC.

Andrea Pino, who filed two of the complaints in January, said she has not heard anything from the U.S. Department of Education, which handles the complaints.

When Annie Clark, who also filed two of the complaints, sent an email to the department on Tuesday, she received an out-of-office email reply.

Pino said people who had filed complaints at Swarthmore College, the University of California-Berkeley, University of Southern California and Occidental College also received similar notices. But students at Yale University received official notices from the Office of Civil Rights that reviews on their campus had been temporarily suspended, she said.

A Department of Education spokesman told The Huffington Post Wednesday that OCR investigations are not an excepted activity and have been suspended until the shutdown ends.

The department, which has put more than 90 percent of its staff on furlough, does not currently answer phone calls or respond to emails regularly, and could not be reached for comment.

UNC spokeswoman Karen Moon deferred questions to the Department of Education.

“We don’t know how big of a stop it will put into the investigation,” Pino said, adding that she wasn’t sure when or how the investigation would resume.

Nonessential vs. essential workers

Federal departments have made choices between essential and nonessential workers.

James Stimson, a UNC political science professor, said there isn’t much legal distinction between the two categories, because without a budget, technically any spending is illegal.

“It’s kind of a pragmatic agreement that (legislators) agree to violate the law and say, ‘It’s better that planes don’t crash, so we fund your air traffic controllers so planes don’t crash,’” he said.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday it might have to furlough additional workers to continue providing services — workers the department considered essential.

The department said it would continue to enroll new participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children until at least Tuesday.

Stimson said within a week, the political pressure will increase considerably.

“A whole generation of politicians decided it was a really dumb thing to do (in 1995), and what we’ve done is replace that generation with a group of politicians who find the idea exciting for a week.”

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