Friday, November 11, 2011

Heart-Warming Effort to Battle Ferocious Freezing

After 7 days of no electric hook-ups, I'd (almost) kill for one.With the cold (temps dropping to 20s) spell coming my way, I was quite happy that the OH state park I aimed at was open this late in the year. Electricity. Yay!

My discomfort without the electrical connection is relatively minor. I have Genny, the push-of-a-button generator (read about high end generators!) that provides what I need. Aside from the obvious environmental drawback, it rumbles loudly under my bed when I kick it on in the early morning, disturbing my last hour or so of sleep. I use Genny minimally, but I'm a big wuss when it comes to being cold, so I endure the noise and guilt for the heat. (photo from 11/10 in Denver at the NAEHCY conference)

Warmth is harder for some people to come by, especially those whose resources teeter on non-existent. As Old Man Winter descends upon us, millions of low-income Americans shiver, no, make that suffer. They just can't afford heat. Or they make dreadful decisions to get heat--skip medications, cut back on food, or worse, use dangerous heating alternatives. Paltry government weatherization programs barely patch the needs of holey households.

30 Year LIHEAP Funding History
For the past 30 years, government funds help income-eligible households pay some sky-high bills (a nice subsidy to utilities). LIHEAP, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, scatters approximately $5 billion across the country although not everyone who needs it gets LIHEAP, and piles of red tape are included. Learn more about LIHEAP

Under the guise of hard times, our government claims it can't afford to continue funding this program at previous (inadequate) levels--when more people need help. The President and Congress planned to slash funding by more than half to a frightening $2.57 billion. Some folks will freeze. Others will die. The combination of poverty and winter is deadly. Read the US Fire Marshall's daily residential fire fatality report if you doubt me.

A couple years ago I delved into the behind-the-scenes story of 3 women and 6 young children who died in what was the "worst fatal fire to strike Mississippi." While their deaths weren't attributed to faulty heating, I discovered hard times, aka poverty, at the core. I began reading the fire fatalities report until it became too overwhelming.

Up in the great state of Maine, winter's playground if you can afford to stay warm, thousands of households will endure months of brutal cold thanks to the ongoing "generosity" of poor people who (unwillingly) help government balance its budget.

Not if Super-Mainers Stephen and Tabitha King have anything to do with it! Yes, SK of horror novel fame, and his wife, Bangor residents and owners of the delightfully liberal talk radio station WZON. 

Pat LaMarche, my good friend and co-host of WZON's  Pulse Morning Show with Don Cookson, is moving into that little blip of a structure at the end of their "fancy" radio station building (photo, right) during the week of Thanksgiving as a gimmick to raise money for freezing Mainers.

Before she can come out, she has to collect $70,000 worth of pledges that the Kings will match! All money will be distributed to cash-strapped Maine residents for heating bills. And, publicity maven that LaMarche is, she'll likely push this issue all the way to Congress, where it can easily be fixed by compassionate budgeteers.

A bipartisan letter is being circulated by Senators concerned about the well-being of their constituents. Urge your US Senator to sign this letter that calls for funding LIHEAP at last year's $5.1 billion level. (Click this link and go to the "Find Your Senators" link on the top right of the page.)

When all is said and done, I'll put my money on Pat and the Kings. They've already warmed my chilly heart with their willingness to help.