Tuesday, November 01, 2005

EDITORIAL>> Stay warm this winter

It is liable to be a cold winter, and heating bills will be out the chimney. As you have heard on the radio this week, for the elderly and disabled and a few of the other poor, the government is here to help you pay the bills. But precious little.

The federal Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program pays utilities for part of the cost of heating and cooling the homes of the needy, and Arkansas’ share is about $14 million for the year, which does not go very far. Arkansas exhausts its share before it reaches many people for very long. The money is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Each utility hustles to get its customers signed up first.

It is much better to be poor in Minnesota, Wisconsin or another of the northern states than in Arkansas. The assistance in Minnesota, for example, might be $120 per poor person in the state but only about $10 in Arkansas. The law was written by Northerners for Northerners.

The distribution is based on the square of the average number of cold days in the year. All those hot, torpid days and the actual depth of poverty do not count.

Sen. Mark Pryor is going to try to change this outrageous formula, he said the other day, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln is sympathetic.

They also are joining with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in trying to increase the appropriation this year by $3 billion because home-heating costs are skyrocketing and low-income families who can afford to heat their homes will be able to afford nothing else. But don’t hold your breath for either.

To almost the last Republican senator and congressman, even those in the South, the party votes to halt either remedy, and it runs the show.

Why would statesmen like Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, vote to keep their own poor people cold and miserable?

Now our own Republican, John Boozman of Springdale, votes with the Democrats on this one.
Down here, someone bragged, even Republicans often have a heart.