The polar vortex spread across the U.S. on Tuesday, with more than 180 million Americans affected and every state except Hawaii experiencing freezing temperatures somewhere. In the Upper Midwest, temperatures are expected to drop to 30 degrees below zero—before wind chill is even factored in. With temperatures as low as -40 in the northern part of Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered all schools in the state closed, the first statewide action of its kind in 17 years. “These are temperatures that we haven’t seen for decades,” said Jen Carfagna, a forecaster for The Weather Channel. But the end is in sight: the polar vortex should be moving out by Thursday, with temperatures in the Great Lakes and the Northeast expected to reach the balmy 20s and 30s. Staying warm will be harder than ever for many Americans, and the Republicans in Congress have only made this task more difficult for those most in need.
Sequester budget cuts last year means that thousands of families have been left in the cold this winter. Congress cut funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program by about $155 million, and total funding has decreased from $5.1 billion to $3.32 billion since 2010. Add this on to families already struggling as the Republican failure to agree to a budget leaves 47 million Americans suffering food stamp cuts, 2014 is no doubt looking very bleak indeed.