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MN braces for 'bad things' ahead from shutdown

Posted by: under Funding, Minnesota congressional, Gov. Mark Dayton, State budgets Updated: October 2, 2013 - 4:48 PM

The longer the federal shutdown lasts, the more Minnesotans could feel the pain.

When Washington shut down, it shut off millions of dollars that should have been flowing into state agencies, services, schools and paychecks.

The governor has assembled an emergency task force to try to identify which state agencies and programs are in danger of running out of money first, and prepare Minnesotans for the potential loss of those services. State officials say there’s no way for the state to make up for that loss, so when the money starts to run out for things like the school lunch program, Minnesotans may have to do without.

“What we passionately hope is that the federal government will come together and figure out how to get its bills paid,” said Tina Smith, chief of staff to Gov. Mark Dayton. “We are not in a position where we can just fill gaps that are created by their political breakdowns.”

During a conference call with reporters, state officials pointed out just how closely federal funds are twined in the state economy.

Some 19,000 Minnesotans work for the federal government and more than 3,000 state employees are primarily funded by Washington. The longer the shutdown lasts, the longer those people will go without paychecks.

A quarter of the state budget comes from federal funds. More, in the case of agencies like the Department of Education, which gets 60 percent of its funding from Washington – including the funds that allow schools to offer free and reduced lunches and breakfasts to needy children.

Minnesota relies on federal funding for everything from meat inspections to salaries for the National Guard – more than a thousand Guard employees have been furloughed already.

Two days into the shutdown , it’s too early to say what effect the shutdown will have on Minnesota, or where the money will run out first.

“It will be an evolving situation. The problems we know about today today may not be the ones we have to respond to tomorrow. There are likely to be new ones each and every day,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter. “Part of the problem of the shutdown is the unpredictability.”
For now, every day of the shutdown is another day with thousands of Minnesotans out of work and countless state programs slowly running short of funds.

“Bad things happen when people go to school…hungry,” Smith said. “Bad things happen when don’t get the payments they have been counting on in order to make sure they can pay their rent. Bad things happen.”

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