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Cass County Board: Despite shutdown, state services expected into November

WALKER — Despite the loss of some federal services elsewhere, Minnesota’s services will continue at least into November if there is an extended federal shutdown, Cass County Health, Human and Veterans Services Director Reno Wells informed the county board Tuesday.

He and some of his staff updated the board on programs the state continues to fund and obtained board approval to work out county support for others well into November.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for pregnant women, and mothers of infants and their young children will continue to receive nutrition counseling and help paying for infant formula under state funding through Nov. 13.

Thereafter, the state has informed Wells and nursing supervisor Jamie Richter that medically prescribed baby formula will be provided. Richter and Wells obtained board approval to work out an arrangement with local grocery stores to provide discounted non-prescription formula to other mothers using county funds.

Cass currently has 779 women, infants and children enrolled in WIC. An average of 51 babies are breastfed and an average of 138 babies receive formula. Cass expects 10 more babies to be born in October.

Others in the program include pregnant mothers and young children up to age 5. Currently, 3 percent of children in the program are below average weight for their age.

Cass’s veterans services offices will remain open, despite regional offices in larger cities being closed. Most federal call centers are open, Veterans Services Officer Jeff Woodford told the board, though people have about a 50 percent chance of getting through, because so many people are overloading the system with questions about what is open.

All veterans medical facilities and clinics remain fully operational, he said. Military sexual trauma and readjustment counseling continue. Interments in national cemeteries continue, but may be on a reduced schedule. Applications for headstones, markers and medallions will be processed. My HealtheVet offers all services.

Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation programs are expected to continue through late October. Insurance and home loans will be processed. NCA will notify VBA of death for benefit actions. Prosthetics will be supplied. Office of small and disadvantaged small businesses and veterans crisis line are open.

Appeals processes are not being done, nor are most veterans homepage or social media updating or hiring of new federal job applicants. Correspondence with federal vets officials ceased. VetSuccess on Campus and vocational rehabilitation/education counseling is suspended.

Hackensack American Legion Auxiliary donated $300 to the county veterans transportation program in September.

Tuesday, Cass commissioners approved a new three-year service agreement with Cass County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), increasing the county’s annual contribution from $37,500 to $42,500 through 2016.

The board also increased its contribution to Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation from $16,350 in 2013 to $17,000 in 2014.

The board declined to spend $4,000 for membership in Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus.

Jim Ballenthin of Backus informed the board he raised about $5,000 to be distributed to four food shelves in central Cass during his recent bicycle ride about Lake Superior.

Cass County Board will attend the Association of Minnesota Counties workshops Dec. 9 to 11 at Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis. Some board members also plan to attend a short ceremony at 11 a.m. Oct. 31 at Camp Lake in Wabedo Township where Minnesota DNR will thank the Nature Conservancy for donating 2,751 acres of former Potlatch land to the DNR.