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How the State Government Shut Down is Affecting the Sexual Violence Center

July 14, 2011

by Jude Foster, Hennepin County Systems Change Program Manager, Sexual Violence Center

By now everyone knows that on July 1st, the Minnesota State government shut down due to a budget impasse. This means that the state government cannot provide services that are deemed non-essential because there are no appropriated funds to support them.

On July 1st, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) filed a petition and appeared before Special Master Kathleen Blatz to argue on behalf of its membership that sexual assault advocacy services are essential services. We are still waiting to hear from the Special Master and the District Court if the services we provide at the Sexual Violence Center (SVC) are considered critical and essential. If a ruling is made that sexual assault services are non-essential, then programs will be unable to receive funds for services that are provided during the shut down. Many sexual assault programs in Minnesota have been forced to limit and even cut services due to the uncertainty about continued funding.

The constitutionality of the special master and district court approval process of funding critical and essential services has been called into question. The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments on July 27th, and if the essential funding decisions are ruled unconstitutional, they could be overturned.

So, what does this mean for SVC? Although we receive state funds, none of our services will be interrupted at this time. We received a loan from the Non-Profit Assistance Fund to cover our expenses through July. Currently, SVC is reviewing its budget every fifteen days.

Providing advocacy services during the shut down has been challenging. Many of the people we serve depend on state government services. For example, we worked with a client that wanted to access crime victim reparations funds to cover costs directly incurred from their sexual assault. Those funds have been interrupted. Many state agency websites have been shut down, which are an important resource for victims/survivors attempting to navigate medical and legal systems.

SVC will reassess its resources in August based on the status of the shut down. In the meantime, we are keeping our fingers crossed and our doors open.

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