Nebraska's REACH I Program Evaluation Summary
The Nebraska Department of Social Services (DSS), a LIHEAP service provider, and Lincoln Action Program (LAP), a community action agency in Lincoln, Nebraska, endeavored to demonstrate the effectiveness of using behavioral change to reduce the energy burden of low-income households. LAP, which has successfully delivered the Weatherization Assistance Program for more than 20 years, implemented Nebraska's REACH I Project. The project was to target 600 low-income households living within Lincoln's designated Enterprise Community for two years. It was anticipated that 200 participants would drop out, and these clients would serve as the control group
The project tested three groups:
- Multiple-need, low-income households requesting help with their utility bills, who agree to attend a series of energy efficiency education and budgeting workshops sponsored by LAP, receive energy self-sufficiency services, and long-term, intensive case management to receive payment of their utility bill(s);
- Low-income households requesting help with their utility bills, who agree to attend a series of energy efficiency education and budgeting workshops, receive energy self-sufficiency services, and short-term case management to receive payment of their utility bill(s); and,
- Low-income households requesting help with their utility bills, who either refuse or fail to attend the workshops, receive energy self-sufficiency services and case management, will serve as the control group.
The project tested the hypothesis that:
Low-income households, who request help with their utility bills, that attend energy efficiency education and budgeting workshops, receive energy self-sufficiency services, and case management, will reduce their energy usage and make better use of their income as compared to a control group not receiving such services.
$600,000, of which $100,000 was used for energy efficiency education, FY 1996 funds.
Three years, of which nine months were used for project planning and three months were used for the final evaluation.
The program's overall goal was to increase the economic self-sufficiency of participating families through increased energy efficiency in the home. Due to the targeted population's substandard housing stock and renter status, the REACH I program focused on changing behaviors of participating clients to increase energy efficiency, rather than on upgrading the physical structures they lived in.
Client Eligibility Criteria
The clients were eligible to participate in the program if they met the following criteria: the clients be at or below 100 percent of USDA-established poverty level for family size, have lived at their current residence for at least 12 months, were not expecting to move from their residence in the immediate future, and needed assistance with utility bills
The services included four linked interventions, as follows: 1) an in-home energy audit by an energy management specialist; 2) workshop instruction in five areas related to energy efficiency and finances; 3) on-going case management individually tailored based on the results of the energy audit and the LAP family assessment, and 4) basic home weatherization supplies for participant installation.
REACH I provided both the participant and non-participant groups incentives to take part in the program. Program participants received $200 to $350 vouchers to pay toward utility bills and 200 bonus points, which were redeemable at the LAP Clothing and Goods Bank. Non-participants received a $50 voucher for utility bills and bonus points at the LAP Clothing and Goods Bank for reporting utility usage. The incentives were paid to participants upon completion of all program elements. Non-participants received their incentives after screening and providing the program with written permission to obtain energy use data from their utilities.
The Princeton Scorekeeping Method Software® (PRISM) was used to test the main hypotheses. Prism uses a year's monthly utility data from a residence to produce a weather-adjusted index of energy use. The difference between pre and post usage equals the savings. The comparison of pre and post usage to the non-participant group provides the evaluator with pre to post differences in usage among the participants and pre to post differences between participant and non-participant groups.
To test knowledge gained and retained from the workshops, pre and post tests were given to participants; another six-month follow-up test was also given to assess their retention.
The program outcomes are the following:
- participants spent less of their income on natural gas and electricity than a randomly assigned group of non-participants;
- participants reduced natural gas use after program entry while no significant decrease in electricity use was found;
- participants increased their knowledge in three areas related to economic self sufficiency (Energy Efficient Practices, Home Weatherization, and Budgeting and Personal Finance);
- participants retained knowledge in these areas six months after completing the program.
Over its three-year period, the REACH
I program served 439 clients. Another 202 families received energy
assistance vouchers and bonus points for their participation in
the non-participants control group.
Contact: Brian Mathers
Lincoln Action Program