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      Because of Iowa’s current economic situation, Gov. Culver mandated a 10-percent across-the-board cut to all departments in the executive branch, including the Iowa Department for the Blind. In addition, the governor has mandated seven days without pay for our 60 non-contract employees and five days without pay for our 32 contract-covered employees. The net result of these cuts will be some delays in services, as staff balance their workloads with fewer hands and fewer hours. We will also be unable to match all of the available federal funds as a result. The upcoming legislative session will focus on the state budget and legislators have promised to take a hard look at reorganizing state government to create savings wherever possible. All in all, we anticipate a challenging year ahead. In spite of this, we pledge to do our best to meet your needs. Department offices will be closed on Feb. 12, March 15, April 2 and May 28 due to the mandated time off. All is not doom and gloom, however. In October we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our Orientation Center with an open house, awards ceremony, a public transit forum, and a 50th anniversary banquet. We have launched our new website at www.IDBonline.org, along with a new presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. And you won’t want to miss our blog focused on the Orientation Center. We have created our first locally produced digital talking books and, with the help of a substantial grant from the Friends of the Library, we will be making them available on cartridges soon. We have sent our new employee, Lance Blas, out to introduce the new digital talking book players to people across the state. We have several upcoming training events during which participants will meet others in their communities dealing with vision loss and learn easy ways to carry out everyday tasks. And best of all, we are helping people regain their independence, find jobs, and get back into the full and productive lives all blind people deserve. Sincerely, Karen Keninger