LIHEAP for joy

You could owe the government money.

Wait, strike that. Reverse it.

The government could owe you money.

That’s right. And this isn’t one of those late-night television ads with a lunatic dressed like the Riddler bouncing around, waving a coffee table book and screaming how he can help you with secret programs to get money for a restaurant, aid with a home loan, cash on the black market for your newborn marmot or anything else he promises at 3 a.m.

This offer isn’t obnoxious. It serves a purpose beyond providing pre-dawn laughs and keeping the velvet-question mark industry thriving.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, designed to provide low-income families and the elderly with support for summer cooling and winter heating bills, also targets students.

Anyone who earns less than $1,196 in a 30-day period is eligible for the program.

Given the increase in natural gas costs, this is a great resource – no pun intended.

Students earning $6.50 per hour can work 184 hours a month – just more than 26 hours a week – and still qualify for LIHEAP.

The Northern Star applauds the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance, the coalition of LIHEAP advocates. Not because it may save us some money – though it will – but because it’s cold outside.

The Chicago area isn’t known for its accommodating winters, and any government spending to help those less fortunate get through the harsh snows and sweltering heat waves should be applauded.

The National Center for Children in Poverty estimates 27 million children – 38 percent of children – are growing up in low-income families.

Though the government is headed in the right direction, it has a long way to go. A group of bipartisan U.S. senators offered an appropriations amendment to provide $3.1 billion in additional LIHEAP funding. Yet it failed on a procedural vote.

Selfishly, we’d love to see more implemented for this program. As broke college students, we need to scrape together funds to pick up the newest issue of “Desolation Jones,” import-only JJ72 albums and unnecessary treks to find great shrimp tempura. Any little bit helps.

But as concerned citizens, we realize there are greater advantages than personal collections and skimming a few extra bucks from Uncle Sam between student loan checks.

By offering a chance for those who really need assistance to get it, LIHEAP gives people a chance to get that warm fuzzy feeling this winter – literally.

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