2011 Budget/Shutdown Crisis
The 2011 Legislative Session ended in May without a budget resolution and, in spite of intense negotiations, a budget was still not reached by the end of the state’s fiscal year leading to Minnesota’s second state government shutdown in a decade. For three weeks, Minnesota nonprofits dealt with extreme uncertainty about the future and lack of immediate payments for services. Some organizations were forced to reduce or close programs and layoff staff, others used reserves and took the financial risk of maintaining as many services as possible.
Preceding and during the shutdown, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits took seriously its role of supporting the sector in a variety of ways:
- MCN used the power of its website to be a one-stop location for nonprofits, the media, public, and government officials to learn the latest developments of the shutdown, reaching more than 10,000 unique visitors.
- By providing several timely memos to all MCN members and video updates from MCN’s public policy director and executive director, MCN ensured that ever member organization had clear and concise notification about their options and resources.
- MCN partnered with Nonprofits Assistance Fund to offer seven trainings and information sessions across the state designed to help organizations prepare for loss of revenue, inability to continue services, staff reductions and other operational challenges.
- MCN represented and supported the sector throughout the legal process to determine which “essential services” should continue. MCN staff was present to document and support the nonprofit petitioners appearing before Minnesota’s Special Master, Attorney General and administration, conveying the realities and risks of loss of service for some of the most vulnerable populations.
- MCN helped the public understand the critical nature of the services affected by telling the story through the media. More than 75 stories of nonprofits being affected by the shutdown appeared in the local and national media during the three-week period. These stories led to important clarity around the continuation of some of the nonprofit sector’s most critical work—domestic violence shelter, services for people with HIV/AIDS, resources for the blind and many others.
- MCN’s Minnesota Budget Project offered timely analysis of budget proposals and their affects on Minnesota’s nonprofits and the people they serve. The series of blog posts a Tale of Two Visions offered a comprehensive look at the impacts of and differences between the Governor’s budget proposal and the proposals put forward by the legislative majority.
While the state is back to business, Minnesota’s nonprofits are putting the pieces back together, many with fewer resources than in the past due to the permanent budget cuts in the final agreement. MCN’s Minnesota Budget Project offers a thorough analysis on the final agreement between legislators and the Governor. Minnesota’s budget challenges will continue—the final solution makes certain that we may face many of these difficult questions again in the near future. Whatever direction these issues take, MCN vows to remain committed to providing services and support to the sector so that nonprofit organizations throughout the state can continue to provide the good work their communities count on.