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State shuts down: Impact to hit home

Jenn Brookens

July 1, 2011
Fairmont Sentinel

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories about the government shutdown. Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders failed to reach a budget resolution by midnight Thursday.

FAIRMONT - "I think it will be a real eye-opener," said Warren Knutson, speaking about the impact of a state shutdown.

Knutson is in charge of Martin and Faribault County Human Services. Locally, the offices will be open, but there are still questions of what services can be provided. New applicants for services will likely be allowed, but getting that information to the state level for processing is iffy.

"A lot of people aren't aware how these programs affect people until they see the effects on people they know ... But looking at these numbers, that is a lot of people that are left hanging," Knutson said.

As of June 13, notices went out to 800 contractors, vendors and grantees statewide by the Department of Human Services that their contracts would be suspended. About 572,000 health care, cash and food support clients were notified of how their access to benefits may be affected. Adoption assistance, child care assistance program recipients and providers also received notice that assistance payments will now likely be affected.

The most frustrating part for all levels is that even as the clock ran out, there were still no clear answers.

"The doors will stay open, and we'll accept new applications, but we're still awaiting clarification," Knutson said. "Everybody is hoping for definition."

If computer systems needed for payment systems aren't working, cash flow from the state is expected to stop.

"The things we don't have control of here, they're all intertwined," Knutson said. "Our job here is to be objective, not to add more concern than what the situation calls for."

Many of the county's other offices will remain functional during the state government shutdown.

Most department heads agreed that most of their work can be done, although paperwork needing to be filed with the state may have to wait. There will be more problems if the state's computer systems break down, as many departments are streamlined online with state departments.

In the recorder's office, two things coming to a halt will be the uniform commercial code, and birth and death certificates. A notice at the recorder's office states that they hope to be able to still provide birth and death certificates if their online connection with the state remains available.

"Anything that's electronically recorded will have to go back to the paper way," said Martin County recorder Kay Wrucke. "The county used to be able to pick up some of this, and now we can't."

Real estate documents are expected to remain available, but deeds will not be able to be transferred if the online connection is down, making the state tax program unavailable.

Marriage licenses, certificates and applications will not be affected because there is no state agency involved.

Martin County Auditor Jim Forshee said the main effect his office will see is the lack of money coming to the county from the state for various grants and reimbursements. Also any money that is collected for the state level will not be sent.

Programs impacted by the delays in grant payments would include victim/witness services and Youth Intervention and Prevention programs, and the sentence-to-service program will not be able to operate.

The Department of Motor Vehicles on state street will remain open, though the testing station in Five Lakes Centre is now closed until the shutdown ends.



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