The state of Minnesota has shut down many of its services due to the legislature’s failure to reach a budget deal by July 1, closing down programs that serve people with disabilities.
Agencies that have been impacted include the State Services for the Blind (SSB), which cancelled its Radio Talking Book show for the blind. According to a government website, “Locations will be closed and Radio Talking Book will not be on the air. Any services SSB provides or purchases on behalf of customers will be suspended. This includes all services from SSB such as training, equipment purchases and transportation payments.”
The shutdown caused the closure of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services offices and the cancellation of counseling, career planning and placement, and long-term job supports for people with disabilities. “All contracted services on behalf of clients with significant disabilities, including payments to community rehabilitation programs and centers for independent living, will be suspended,” the website says.
A help line for the elderly has gone out of service. Nonprofits that are funded by the state were also affected, with some that assist the state’s impoverished residents considering layoffs.
Prison guards, courts, emergency services and state troopers are still in force while dozens of state agencies have closed down. There were 22,000 State layoffs, including Larry Hosch of Independent Lifestyles, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities and receives some of its funding from the state. Hosch is also a representative of the state legislature, where salary payments have continued for the majority of members.
Governor Mark Dayton petitioned the Ramsey County court to keep essential services such as the Medical Assistance program running during the shutdown. The Medical Assistance program funds many local services for people with disabilities.
Pamela Hoopes, director of the Minnesota Disability Law Center said, “The longer the shutdown in Minnesota goes on, the more detrimental it will be to people with disabilities. Although a fair number of the most comprehensive services for people with disabilities are still in place thanks to a court order that they constitute key services, the State has to continue despite of the fact that we have no budget.”
Hoopes warned of additional effects as the shutdown drags on. “As time passes and there’s no settlement of the budget, more and more secondary harm will come to people as they are unable to go out to their supported employment, for example, or they lose a personal care assistant provider and are having a harder time getting a replacement because of the short staffing in all of the agencies, even the ones that remain open,” Hoopes said. “So there is a lot of secondary harm that is already pretty sure to happen if the State doesn’t re-open soon.”
Numerous other state governments and the federal government are facing budget crises but Minnesota is the only one that has shut down so far. The Minnesota government had a partial shutdown in 2005 as well. The government will remain closed until a budget deal is reached.
This article was published in the August 2011 issue of Able News.