Nebraska's REACH II Program Evaluation Summary
The Lincoln Action Program's (LAP) REACH II project followed completion of the LAP REACH I grant and built upon the findings from that project. REACH II followed the theoretical model used in REACH I —decreasing energy usage and increasing self-sufficiency among low-income households through a combination of energy education, energy assistance payments and holistic case management services. In REACH II these components were isolated into four separate intervention tracks and a control group in order to identify the components that were most effective in achieving the desired outcomes—decreased LIHEAP dependence and increased economic self-sufficiency through reduced energy costs.
$1,136,042 (1999 funds )
The project will determine the statistical significance and contribution that each intervention track will make toward achieving energy self-sufficiency as indicated by reducing LIHEAP dependency, increasing incomes, and improving utility payment patterns.
Client Eligibility Criteria
Clients were eligible to participate in the program if they were a current LIHEAP recipient or if their household income was at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
Clients were randomly assigned to one of the program intervention tracks— energy efficiency, home environment, budgeting, case management—or to the control group. All participants, including the control group, were given $75 cash assistance for energy costs at initial intake and $75 after 12 months. Client services in each track are described below:
1. Energy efficiency track participants were given a home energy audit that focused on how their behaviors impact the amount of energy used in the home. An action plan was developed for each household with goals set towards reducing energy use. Energy conservation workshops, including one specially designed for children, were provided for all clients.
2. Home environment track participants received a home energy audit focused on the physical energy efficiency of their homes and appliances. Participants were given materials and instruction on repairs to improve the efficiency of their homes.
3. Budgeting track participants were given a management audit that focused on budgeting and bill payment. A budgeting workshop was specifically geared to low-income persons.
4. Case management track participants were given a portion of LAP's Family Assessment Tool that identifies relative strengths and weaknesses in 11 primary life domains. An action plan was developed to move families toward self-sufficiency and linked them to services and resources in the community.
Differences in normalized annual consumption and dollar savings for electricity and natural gas usage were found between pre and post program and in comparison to the the control group. Electricity savings were found in the energy efficiency and home budgeting program tracks. Natural gas savings were found across all tracks but statistically significant savings were found for the energy efficiency, budgeting and case management tracks. Consumption savings across the two fuel types meant significant dollar savings for the energy efficiency and budgeting track participants and reductions in client energy burden of about 16 percent.
A combination of focusing on changing client behaviors in the home related to energy use (energy efficiency track) and increasing client knowledge and skills related to home budgeting was found most effective in reducing usage. The home environment track in which clients were educated on how make their home more energy efficient was the least effective, showing no savings over all or in comparison to the control group.
Improvement in bill payments was measured by the number of disconnect notices received by clients in the 12 months prior to the start of the REACH II program to the number of notices received in the 12 months after entering the program. The most substantial reduction in disconnect notices were in the energy efficiency, budgeting and case management groups.
REACH II clients improved their knowledge substantially after training in the three skill building tracks, energy efficiency, home environment and budgeting and retained this knowledge six months after the training.
Over its three-year period, the REACH II program served 755 clients. Another 140 families in the received energy assistance vouchers for their participation in the control group.
Contact the LIHEAP Clearinghouse for the full-text evaluation report.