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Government shutdown would deny clients services and benefits

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The more than 6,500 Beltrami County clients of State Department of Human Services will receive a letter announcing their health care benefits, food assistance and rent, gas, electric and other payments could be cancelled if the government shuts down July 1.

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Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy wrote to county commissioners Monday that State Human Services sent the letter without consulting counties. The letter, dated Sunday, tells clients not to call the state offices because no one will be there to answer the calls. Instead, the letter states, "If there is a state shutdown and state staff is not available, contact your county office."

"This is really a dramatic letter, and I think a lot of people will rush to us, and we don't have any answers," Murphy said. "There will be lots of people on hold - for long periods of time.

Murphy said the Beltrami County Community Services Center is not staffed to accommodate any kind of rush. He said he also expected commissioners to start receiving "emotional complaints" midweek.

"Short of referring these clients to our locally elected state legislators, I don't know what we might say to alleviate the very real anxiety of desperate people," Murphy said in his letter to commissioners.

The Department of Human Services letter told clients they will not receive notice that benefits have resumed once the shutdown ends. However, clients must continue to pay into MinnesotaCare premiums or they will lose coverage.

The letter also urged clients to keep track of news about the potential shutdown on TV and radio as July 1 nears. They can also check the website at www.dhs.state.mn.us.

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