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The waiting continues; Background checks can be done but some license renewals are still halted during shutdown

Had the Ramsey County judge recently not ordered the state Department of Human Services to restart background checks, new staff at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center would not have been able to start work.

Kathy Newell, the employment and benefits coordinator at the medical center, said while new employees could still be hired, she could not give them a start date because no background checks could be completed.

The medical center typically sees between 2-5 new employees a week, Newell said. Now these employees will have a start date to look forward to.

Still, she added, the government shutdown is still a problem for employees who still need to renew their licenses.

Roughly six weeks ago, Newell said, notices were sent out to Sanford Bemidji employees reminding those who needed to renew their licenses they should do so as soon as possible in case of a government shutdown.

Employees who did not renew their licenses will have to wait until the state government reopens. The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, which licenses physicians, is unable to process any transactions online or in person as of June 30.

Jordan Hickman, director of human resources for the Bemidji School District, has also found the state shutdown burdensome for the same reason.

"It is creating concerns for us in terms of teacher licensure," he said. "The Minnesota Department of Education has shut down, so we're unable to get online and verify current licensure of any applicants."

Licenses due to be renewed in 2011 expired June 30. Typically, teachers needing to renew their teaching license after five years send in their applications, which are processed through an online licensing system within 48 hours. However, the online licensing system has not been available as of June 28.

For teachers who have to renew their teaching license for less than five years, the process takes longer because they have to provide the state with more documents.

Since July 1, no work has been completed on pending applications.

State law requires that anyone who substitutes or has a teaching position in a Minnesota public school must hold a valid Minnesota teaching license. Teachers must have their licenses renewed before they begin teaching in the fall.

"Now if we send an application, it will sit there," Hickman said. "If they don't have a resolution until the time the school year starts, we would have positions unable to be filled."

School districts seeking special permissions for non-licensed "community experts," program waivers, personnel variances, non-renewable licenses and temporary licenses, will not be able to send in those applications until the state government reopens.