Oklahoma ran out of money in just three days. Illinois cut its program to focus on offering heating money for the winter ahead. And Indiana isn't taking any new applicants. When weighed against education and other budget needs, cooling assistance has been among the first items cut, and advocates for the poor say that could make this heat wave even more dangerous.
"I've never seen it this bad," said Timothy Bruer, executive of Energy Services Inc., which administers the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in 14 Wisconsin counties. The group has turned away about 80 percent of applicants seeking cooling assistance.
The sizzling summer heat comes after a bitterly cold, snowy winter in many places and at a time when unemployment remains stubbornly high.
The cuts began after Congress eliminated millions of dollars in potential aid, forcing state lawmakers to scale back energy assistance programs. The agencies that distribute the money are worried that the situation could get even worse next year because the White House is considering cutting the program in half.
The Oklahoman might have been concerned that Oklahomans are suffering through record-breaking heat and the state's worst drought in decades coupled with limited government. Perhaps that is the "shared suffering" its senator advocated last December, exacerbated by conservative politicians exorcised by "shared suffering" and titillated by budget cuts.
Extreme weather occurrences such as heat and drought, however, need not be noticed. But when the northern hemisphere- remarkably- experiences a snowstorm this winter, some politicians, pundits, and talk-show hosts will triumphantly declare the foolishness of the concept of global warming.