One day in, F-M area already feeling effects of shutdown
MOORHEAD - It's only been one day, but already the Minnesota government shutdown has touched many lives. With 22,000 state workers off the job Friday morning because of the shutdown, most are starting to apply for unemployment insurance. Area sta...
MOORHEAD - It's only been one day, but already the Minnesota government shutdown has touched many lives.
With 22,000 state workers off the job Friday morning because of the shutdown, most are starting to apply for unemployment insurance.
Area state workers will have to do it online or by telephone, however, because a locked door greets visitors to the state Department of Employment and Economic Development office in Moorhead.
A sign on the door reads: "The WorkForce Center has been required to shut down due to a Minnesota State budget agreement not being reached by June 30th. Services in the Resource Room will be suspended until further notice."
Callers to the office are greeted with a similar message.
But jobless workers can now file for unemployment insurance through the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Information and Benefits System, either by phone, (877) 898-9090 or online at http://goo.gl/6KizZ .
Affects Fargo business
The unemployment has not been limited to Minnesota. Michael Nygaard, store manager of The Arc Attic Treasures in Fargo, has lost four employees because of the shutdown.
Nygaard works with a Minnesota employment program that subsidizes employee training and received notice of the possible shutdown last week.
"They wanted to pull two of our employees out by Sunday so they could get their paychecks this week," he said.
Nygaard didn't think he would be affected by Minnesota's problems, but he is.
"Not knowing how long this will be in effect is troubling," he said.
Two of Nygaard's other employees who live in Minnesota receive day care assistance and now have to stay home with their children because they can't afford to pay for care on their own. State payments to low-income parents for day care ended with the shutdown.
"Being a nonprofit organization, we can't say 'don't worry about it, we'll just pay you,'" Nygaard said. "It's frustrating that the government can't put their differences aside and work this out, especially on a holiday weekend."
One of the largest concerns directly affecting families and day care operators is the loss of child care subsidies.
"It's still classified as a problem area," said Rhonda Porter, Clay County director of Social Services. "We're waiting to hear whether three of our programs are considered critical or not."
She said the agency is looking from clarification from a state hearing officer.
"As of now the payment, which comes from the state, will not be coming out to providers," Porter said.
The 262 Minnesota providers approved to receive payments have a choice about how they want to handle the situation with the parents.
They can continue providing day care and let parents pay the full cost, Porter said, "which is a bit harder because most of the parents receiving help really can't afford day care without that help."
Day cares could also continue providing day care and ask to be reimbursed by the state after a budget agreement is reached.
"The problem with that, though, is there isn't a guarantee that the government will pay for those days," Porter said. "The other option is to close until a decision is made."
Another effect of the shutdown could be seen at the state Office of Motor Vehicles in Moorhead.
Scott Olsen, Moorhead, visited the office Friday to renew his license plate tags.
"I think people assume it's closed, and it's not," he said. "Since no one is here, it was quick getting in and out."
A spokeswoman for the Moorhead office said there wasn't much change on Friday in the way it has been operating.
The only real change, she explained, is that workers can't sell boat licenses or conduct driving exams.
"At one level, it's kind of absurd," Olsen said. "This has happened before, and it's not the first time the government has done it. It'll be over in a few days."
Some of the visitors at the motor vehicle office in Moorhead were pleasantly surprised by the smaller lines.
"I don't have many days off to get here, and I wasn't sure if they'd be open today," said Linda Burgess, Moorhead. "I just had my tag renewals, and it was really quick because nobody is here."