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More than 500 local employees could face job layoffs if shutdown occurs

If state budget negotiators miss their deadline to approve a two-year budget agreement, many state employees could be looking at an extended Fourth of July vacation.

For agencies based in Bemidji, a state government shutdown could affect more than 500 local employees.

Julie Quanrud, one of two employees who work for the Department of Labor and Industry at the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit in Bemidji, said she was told to clear out her office in preparation for a state shutdown. The rehabilitation unit provides assistance to injured workers and helps residents find employment.

"The expense of shutting down is astronomical," she said. "It's very sad, not just for the employees, but for all of our clients. It's shutting down an office that is helping people find work."

Jean Brown with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said 12 employees work in the Bemidji area. These individuals could be impacted by a state budget stalemate.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources houses its Northwest Region headquarters; and the regional headquarters and area offices of ecological and water resources, fisheries, forestry, wildlife, parks and trails, and wildlife research. Additionally, Bemidji is home to Lake Bemidji State Park.

According to Scott Pengelly, DNR assistant communications director, 140 employees with active or seasonal layoff status work in Bemidji.

At least five employees with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council offices located in Bemidji and in St. Paul could be affected by the government shutdown. MIAC is the official liaison between the state and the 11 tribal governments within the state.

The Northwestern district office of the Minnesota Department of Health has 36 employees who work in Bemidji, and who could be laid off if a shutdown occurs. The Health Department handles such things as community health services, disease prevention and control, environmental health, facility and provider compliance, family health and facilities management.

A judge recently ordered the state judicial branch to continue operating at current funding levels Tuesday. This order means the 11 employees who work in Bemidji's 9th Judicial District office will not likely be affected by a government shutdown.

In 2005, when a partial state government shutdown occurred, the Public Defenders' Office was not affected because the funding was passed by both houses of Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty before the session closed.

The 22 employees with the Corrections District Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who work out of Bemidji could be affected by a shutdown. In 2005, the office remained open as a public safety bill was signed by lawmakers.

Katie Bauer, a public information officer with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said 57 employees work in Bemidji. These people could potentially put their jobs on hold if a government shutdown occurs.

More than 200 employees work for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Northwest district, which is headquartered in Bemidji, according to Karen Bedeau, public affairs coordinator.

"We're a pretty lean operation here," she said in a phone interview. "I think people are nervous. I hope they can find a compromise."

No staff members with the Department of Military Affairs' training and community center in Bemidji will be affected, according to Sgt. Frank Chilson.

In 2005, the Minnesota Workforce Center remained open, but it is not known whether the employees who work for the Minnesota Department of Economic Security's Workforce Center in Bemidji would be safe from a state government shutdown.