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Library sees influx of visitors amid government shutdown

Josie and David Beeson use R.H. Stafford Library's computers to look for jobs and file for unemployment benefits. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

Josie Beeson thinks if state workers are out of work, then legislators shouldn't get paid either.

"It's just not right," she said. "Maybe that will get their butts in gear."

The Cottage Grove resident has been going to Woodbury's R.H. Stafford Library every morning since she was laid off June 30 as a result of the state government shutdown.

She joins a number of area residents at the library, where there has been an uptick in visitors over the past week seeking unemployment benefits, said Chad Lubbers, library manager.

"It's been absolutely nutty the past couple of days here," he said.

The local Workforce Center used to be home to those filing unemployment claims weekly, but since it's a state government operation, the overflow has now gone to the library.

Local nonprofits don't seem to be impacted by the state government shutdown, at least for now, which is working toward county facilities' advantage.

Lubbers said the library gets the majority of its funding from Washington County and so far operations have not been affected. However, depending on the final budget, that may change.

"For the foreseeable future we're in pretty good shape," he said.

The library's neighboring building, the YMCA, doesn't receive funding from the state, according to staff.

"At first we were worried about criminal background checks for hiring," said Marketing and Communications Vice President Betty Fenton, adding that the Y found a way to continue that service.

The shutdown has created a lot of uncertainty statewide and locally -- whether it's at a nonprofit, county government office or among state workers.

Beeson and her husband, David, were laid off on the same day, though he wasn't a state employee. But he did receive social security benefits for a hearing disability up until he sought unemployment benefits. He was told he could get one or the other.

It wasn't the first time Beeson has been laid off from her job of 28 years at the Department of Human Services, but she said this time it was different.

The others were two-week furloughs; this is a layoff that has no end in sight.

"I think it was easier back then because it wasn't a recession," she said. "I think the public is just now starting to get a little taste of it. We just don't want them to forget when they vote the next time."

She said her unemployment benefits are about half of her paycheck and her husband's are less.

"What you get from unemployment, it doesn't even cover your house payment," Beeson said.

Capitol observers were bracing for a protracted shutdown. Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and Republicans - who control the Legislature - have not reached a budget deal that would get the government up and running again.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.