Non-profits would suffer in state government shutdown

10:40 PM, Jun 13, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With no budget deal in sight, and a government shutdown looming, non-profit organizations across the state are preparing for the worst.

"We know that non-profits partner with government to deliver services, on the ground, in communities, and the people who rely on those services will be hurt the worst, " said Jeannie Fox, Deputy Public Policy Director with Minnesota Council for Nonprofits.

The Council is hosting several briefings across the state over the next few weeks to help non-profits figure out how to manage cash-flow and other issues in the event of a shutdown.

Thousands of organizations rely on state money to keep their doors open and many are even contractually mandated by the state to provide services. But, should the government shutdown, that money would stop.

"Most at risk would be the really vulnerable, people with disabilities, the elderly, people with mental health issues," said Fox.

Cornerstone, a women's shelter in Bloomington, says it would be almost impossible, and unthinkable, to shut its doors and turn domestic violence victims away.

"You have to think now, if the state is going to refuse to pay for those services, reimburse those services, then where is that money going to come from?" said Susan Neis, Cornerstone's Executive Director.

Neis says state funding is the main source of revenue for its shelter, and if that went away, they would have to consider pulling funds from other necessary programs to make sure women in unsafe relationships had somewhere safe to stay. It's the same situation other shelters find themselves in.

"Some of the shelters have an operating reserve and some don't have much of an operating reserve, so it's really very difficult. There are some programs in greater Minnesota that are concerned they may have to shutter their organizations," said Neis.

For most of us the shutdown will simply be an inconvenience, but for some folks they could lose services they desperately rely on.

"That would absolutely be devastating to families like mine because otherwise we walk alone. We feel so alone," said Laura Mortenson-Bratsch.

Mortenson-Bratsch came to Cornerstone five years ago to escape domestic violence. Now she continues to come for support for both her and her children. Without it she feels unsafe.

"I feel like Cornerstone is my backbone," she said.

For organizations that are mandated to provide services, a court would have to decide if those are to continue. Services aside, many employees of these organizations could end also up in the unemployment line.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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