PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island residents looking to renew their drivers licenses,get help claiming unemployment benefits or even go golfing couldface closed doors Friday after a
Carcieri, who did not immediately comment on Thursday's ruling,ordered the
Carcieri has scheduled one or two shutdown days every monthuntil the start of the state's next fiscal year in July. Thedecision puts Rhode Island among at least 20 states consideringfurloughs or shut downs to save money, according to a survey by theNational Conferenceof State Legislatures.
Among those likely to be inconvenienced are people alreadypinched by one of the worst recessions in Rhode Island since theGreat Depression. The call center at the state Department ofLabor and Training will not take calls from newly unemployedpeople in a state with a
Workers at the department have struggled to quickly processunemployment claims from jobless people seeking cash help. Thestate has been paying workers overtime to process a backlog ofunemployment claims filed online, department spokesman Laura Hartsaid.
Hart said the backlog could rise in the short term because ofthe shutdown days.
"We really are going to have to see the long-term impact, wedon't know yet," Hart said.
In a memo to Carcieri, the Department ofHuman Services warned computers systems used to manage welfareand health care benefits cannot automatically account for theshutdown days, meaning those services could be improperly continuedor prematurely cut off. In addition, Child support payments will bedelayed by a day.
The shutdown means roughly 450 to 500 people will not be servedby the food stamp program, according to the memo. Rehabilitationworkers said the state could lose federal stimulus funding if theirbacklog grows too great.
Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe said all state departments haveworked for weeks to prepare for the upcoming shutdown. She saidstate workers will fix computer programs, correct mistakes andreschedule appointments to make sure people are not penalizedbecause of bureaucratic mistakes resulting from the shutdown.
It's not as if we're going to shut the doors, walk away and say,'Sorry, we can't help you,"' Kempe said.
Beaches across the Ocean State will remain open and staffed bylifeguards, although the golf course at Goddard Memorial State Parkin Warwick will be closed. Division ofMotor Vehicles offices will be closed.
Child abuse investigators, medical examiners and state policewill still report to work or be on-call, although their civiliansupport staff will stay home. Family and friends cannot visitinmates at the state prison in Cranston during the shutdowndays.
The statewide shutdown would be the first in Rhode Island since1991. Then-Gov. Bruce Sundlun ordered state government to close for10 days during a financial crisis brought on by the collapse oflocal credit unions. State workers took two days without pay beforeSundlun struck a deal with state employee labor unions.
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