Federal shutdown could affect thousands of state employees

Minnesota’s top budget official is warning that state government cannot fill any of the funding gaps caused by a prolonged federal government shutdown.

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said that means some of an estimated 3,000 state workers in jobs that are primarily federally-funded will soon receive furlough notices. Under state employee contracts, workers must be notified of such an action 21 days in advance.  Schowalter told reporters today that individual state agencies are still trying to determine when federal funds might run out.

“The bottom line is we aren’t  going to be able to fill any of those gaps with state funds,” Schowalter said. “These are problems that have to be identified. People have to know that there is a cessation of services. But is not a situation that ultimately the state can or would be responsible for.”

Schowalter said the federal shutdown is an “unpredictable and “evolving situation.” He said the state will likely encounter new problems every day it continues.

Some state agencies rely more heavily than others on federal funds.  Federal funding plays a particularly big role in state programs for agriculture, education, employment and human services, said Tina Smith, chief of staff to Gov. Mark Dayton.

“Nobody should think that when an important federal partner stops paying its bills, that it’s not going to have an impact on the state of Minnesota, because it will,” Smith said. “Not only the state of Minnesota but all the people of Minnesota.”

The Minnesota National Guard has already been hit hard by the shutdown. Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, the state guard’s adjutant general, said 1,036 federal employees in military technician jobs were furloughed yesterday. Now, he said, notifications are being prepared for 274 state employees who work in other support positions. Despite the furloughs, Nash insisted that his troops remain ready for any job they’re needed for.

“Just wanted to make sure the citizens of Minnesota are well aware that this will not impact our ability to respond to a manmade or a natural disaster,” Nash said.