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State layoffs hit family's two breadwinners

By Chris Welch, CNN
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Family feels sting of Minnesota layoffs
  • Government shutdown results in dual layoffs for St. Paul, Minnesota, family
  • Democrats, Republicans at odds on how to pay for state budget gap
  • Both parents' jobs were deemed "nonessential" by the state
  • They fear they'll have to dip into kids' college savings to survive

St. Paul, Minnesota (CNN) -- Seventeen-year-old Claire Thomas has found the silver lining in Minnesota's government shutdown: she gets to spend more time with her two mothers on her summer vacation. Toby McAdams and her partner, Wendy Crowell, were both included in the mass layoff that left more than 20,000 state workers jobless.

"It's actually a little bit nice to have my mothers home for a teency bit," said the soon-to-be high school senior.

"But if it's (going to last) months, I can't imagine. I mean already my mom is wandering around a little lost, because she wants to work. ... Both of my moms' jobs are so important to them."

McAdams, 43, has worked for the state for 17 years, currently in the office of emergency preparedness, and Crowell, 50, studies invasive species for the Department of Natural Resources.

Layoffs come as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers clash over the state's $5 billion budget gap.
Layoffs come as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers clash over the state's $5 billion budget gap.

Both their jobs were deemed "nonessential" by the state, thus they've been laid off. They'll receive benefits but no pay, and there's no guarantee they will keep their jobs when all is said and done. Coming spending cuts could be significant when or if a new state budget is finally agreed upon.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton offered a budget proposal that included a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to offset the state's $5 billion budget gap, but Republicans in control of the legislature have thus far refused to budge on any plan that includes a tax increase.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported this week that 138 legislators are still collecting paychecks during the shutdown, while 62 have declined to accept the checks.

iReporter: "I'm not sure I can wait for my job to come back to me."

That news certainly doesn't make McAdams' and Crowell's layoffs any easier to swallow.

"It's hard. I miss my job, and I miss doing the work that I know is so important for Minnesota," McAdams said. The couple worry that, should this continue very long, they'll have to tap into a college savings fund they set up for Claire and her younger brother, Adam.

"I'm counting on our family to have a safety net if something bad happens," Claire said, just minutes after a brief discussion with her parents over lunch regarding the varying costs of her top college choices.

It's hard. I miss my job.
--Toby McAdams, laid off Minnesota state worker

The family has also had discussions on how to cut back with everyday trips to the grocery store.

Claire, who also works part time at a nearby farm, has an affinity for "fancy" food, which is organic and chemical-free. Doing the family's shopping will be tougher.

"I would have to compromise my values a little bit ... I would buy cheaper things, buy cheaper milk," she said. "But I work at a farm (so) I can use the surplus there, and it helps that we have a garden."

Aside from the financial effects, McAdams and Crowell worry what a lack of government services -- and thousands of employees -- will do to the state long-term.

"Things are going to get worse, and we aren't going to be able to do anything about it. So it's going to be painful to watch," McAdams said. "Minnesota won't be such a nice place to live after a while."

"We have legislators. And their job is to work out a budget for us," she added. "I'd like to see them do it."