Shutdown pain spreads beyond the Capitol
By Martiga Lohn
ST. PAUL -- Dennis Moore has been counting his worries in the six days since deadlocked budget negotiations forced parts of the state government to shut down. He's up to 90.
That would be 90 customers from Montana to Michigan who expect to get their mobile homes from Schult Homes in Redwood Falls this month. That's $5 million worth of deliveries blocked by Minnesota's temporary suspension of oversize hauling permits.
On Wednesday, Moore might have gotten a reprieve when a court-appointed referee recommended that oversize permits should continue to go out. A judge still has to sign off.
Not everyone is so lucky, as a growing number of people outside state government feel the pinch of the shutdown.
Besides 8,900 furloughed state workers, the stoppage has hit an array of services, from day care referrals to job counseling for refugees, emergency aid to prevent homelessness and airport construction permits. Even the U.S. military was having trouble Wednesday delivering oversize loads of howitzers and ammunition carriers to a base in central Minnesota.
"It's putting a lot of people in very poor positions," said Deborah Manning, director of programs for the Minnesota Council of Churches. "They're essential services for those people and unfortunately they're not always highly visible."
The government shut down because Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and an almost evenly divided Legislature couldn't agree on spending for schools and subsidized health care and how to pay for it all. The shutdown was mitigated by a court order to keep essential services operating and the passage of some funding bills before the July 1 deadline.
Moore, a division sales manager at Schult Homes, said that for the manufactured home industry, the interruption couldn't come at a worse time. Even if oversize permits were available, the shutdown also means the state isn't giving out current information on road conditions, which drivers need before they set out, he said.
"We have a very short construction season," Moore said. "Hitting it right in the middle of July and August causes quite a strain."
Parents seeking day care have their own problems. If they call the Child Care Resource and Referral Network, which coordinates the work of 19 child care agencies statewide, they get a message warning them they might not get the help they need because of the shutdown.
All but four of the child care agencies have closed, and the rest are trying to eke out two weeks of bare-bones services -- emergency referrals and an online database that isn't being updated, said Ann McCully, executive director of the network.
"It's a horrible spot they've put us in," McCully said. "It just puts more of the onus back on the parent."
The shutdown has also hit refugees from war-torn countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia, who can't get help contacting employers and preparing for job interviews. Those state-funded services have been suspended since the shutdown began, affecting at least 300 active job seekers, said Joel Luedtke, director of refugee programs at the Minnesota Council of Churches.
"Typically they're brand-new to the whole American labor force, so we describe our work as being the helping hand at that critical stage," Luedtke said. "We're trying to figure out what we can do, if anything."
In St. Cloud, the Tri-County Action Program laid off the equivalent of 71⁄2; workers who do financial and job counseling anl give out emergency grants to cover rent, Executive Director Paula Erdmann said. "If you're about to be homeless right now and you can't apply for funds, it's painful," she said.