Government Shutdown: What Would it Look Like?

Editor’s Note: As this issue was being written, the Governor and Legislative leaders had just reached an agreement on the overall budget for the next two years. Governor Ventura was expected to call a Special session in early June, averting a Government shutdown.  However, the threat of a shutdown got us all at Access Press thinking about the variety and importance of State programs and services that affect the lives of people with disabilities.  In this article, Bob Brick of Arc Minnesota takes us through an imaginary “Day in the Life” of a Minnesotan with a disability as it might unfold if the state government were to shut down due to a budget stalemate.
Monday, 6:00 AM.: Time to start the week already? Sure wish my PCA would get here. [Telephone rings]  I wonder who’s calling this time of day. “What? You can’t come? Why not?… You haven’t been paid for the past two weeks and the agency is shutting down, due to cash flow
problems….I know what you mean; I need to get out of bed to keep my cash flow coming…Yeah, I know you’re sorry and you have to get another job. Good luck.”

I need to call my brother to see if he can pinch hit until I can arrange something else.

8:00 AM: “Thanks Mike. I couldn’t have started the day without you. It’s too bad that the state parks are closed and you won’t be able to go camping this week…OK…I just need to confirm my Metro Mobility ride to the doctor and I’m all set.”

“Hello; Metro Mobility?  I am confirming my…What do you mean you’re not filling ride requests today? No money? I know better than that you’re operated by the Metropolitan Council, not the State of Minnesota…You say that its not getting its state funding and services are being temporarily discontinued? What…there’s no mainline service either? The bank won’t lend you money? I know the feeling thanks for nothing.”

8:15 AM: “Mike, can you give me a lift to the Doctor? Thanks.”

8:45 AM: “Right on time Thanks Mike. Can you wait for me?”

“I’m here to check in for my 9:00 appointment. Here’s my Medical Assistance card… Why won’t you accept it?…The State is not paying you?…No…I can’t afford to pay for this visit. I’ll have to cancel my appointment. I hope I don’t end up in the emergency room before the politicians settle this deal…Oh the paramedics aren’t running either? I guess a lot of services are affected.”

9:00 AM: “Guess I’m going to work earlier than they expected me today, Mike. Yeah I really like my work as a job coach at Jobs R Us. It’s a day training and habilitation organization for people with disabilities. We help people become taxpayers, and more independent. Great people and great work although I’m still waiting for my cost-of-living pay increase. It’s apparently tied up with this budget stalemate. I sure could use the raise.”

9:30 AM: “Hey look at the sign on the door. Operations are suspended due to the Government shutdown. What does the Government have to do with Jobs R Us. Oh yeah most of our funding flows through the state, and they’re not open. I can get by for a while, but I know many of my co-
workers and clients can’t. Our business partners are expecting us to be there, too. I’m sure they’re not going to be happy. I’ve got to check in with my supervisor this is getting to be depressing.”

10:00 AM: “Well, I guess its back home. They’re suspending operations and everyone’s laid off until the Government gets back to work. I can’t even file an unemployment claim.  What are you up to today, Mike? …You have an IEP [Ed. note: IEP is “Individual Education Plan”] meeting for Sara and you expect problems? I haven’t worked on education issues for a while, but I’d be happy to attend as your advocate. Let’s go.”

[Cell phone rings.] “Hello…What’s that?…My assessment for this week is canceled and you’ll just authorize services as is until your public health nurses come back?…The County’s just dealing with emergencies? Well, I can wait, but my PCA agency seems to be teetering. I’ve got no PCA today and probably not for the next couple of weeks…Yeah, I’ll call if I can’t get help. Bye.”

“Mike, I’m glad you’re on vacation buddy don’t know what I’d do without you.”

11:30 AM: “I’m pleased to meet you Ms. Johnson. I’m assisting Mike and Julie with the IEP. Looks like the whole school is here. Oh this is just the IEP team?”

1:00 PM: “What do you mean you can’t guarantee Para support or therapy services? We don’t care how they get paid we just agreed that these services are necessary. We know the school is facing budget cuts and the State’s not coming through, but I’m recommending that Mike and Julie not sign off on this plan until we get this issue settled. You can expect them to use their due process rights.”

1:30 PM: “What a meeting. I can’t believe what you have to go through to get Sara an appropriate education. Let me look this stuff over and we’ll figure out the next step.”

“Watch out for the pothole. That one will swallow a car…It’s been there since April?…The City’s not repairing roads, until it gets its State aid payment? Hope this budget stuff gets settled soon, for your car’s sake.”

2:00 PM: “I’m starved. Can we stop and then go to the post office? I have a registered letter to pick up. Boy,White Castle just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?”

2:45 PM: “Look at this letter.  The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency can’t manage my apartment complex any longer due to staff layoffs. Seems like they’re trying to find a private party to purchase the complex. Looks like my rent will be going up. What a day!”

3:00 PM: “Mike, how’s the application for Sara’s developmental disabilities waiver slot going?…Really? You mean the County can’t act on it until the State comes through with their money for the County?…No staff to help with the intake process?…Hmph. So much for taking advantage of the unlimited slots opportunity.”

3:30 PM: “Hey, there’s Tom and Cindy. They’re the parents of one of my clients. Lets say hello.”

“How ya doin’?…You’re kidding me!? The house is closing? Where will Ryan live?…You’re bringing him home, and Cindy will take a leave of absence from work? Boy, that’s great timing; I just heard that UMD’s tuition is going up after they re-open because they didn’t get enough money from the Legislature…Your daughter will need to get another job to make up for Cindy’s lost wages?  Well, hang in there looks like Ryan lost a job and home today. If I can help, give me a call.”

4:30 PM: “Mike, let’s stop for a beer; it’s been a heckuva day… Look at that guy I sure hope he’s getting a cab. No, he’s getting into his car. Quick! call 911

“Hi, we need a highway patrol here ASAP….What do you mean, there’s no highway patrol in this area?…Due to the state shutdown they’ve all been pulled? You’ve got to get this guy off the highway before someone gets killed…OK…I hope you do find someone, goodbye.”

“Can you believe this?”

6:30 PM: “Time to go Mike. Lets take the side streets. I’m leery about who is on the road, given all that’s happening out there.  No need to stop to eat. I’ve got a pizza in the freezer.”

8:00 PM: “Great pizza. I didn’t know they could do so much with unusual toppings. Mike, can you help me into bed?…I know it’s early, but I don’t have anyone to help later.”

“Did I ever tell you you’re the best brother in the world? Yeah, I know I’m sucking up. Can you be here tomorrow at 7:30? Looks like I’ll have the whole day to go through Sara’s records. Thanks Buddy!”