Outreach is the process of making information about LIHEAP available to the public. According to the LIHEAP statute, Assurance 3, such information should be:
"designed to assure that eligible households, especially households with elderly individuals or disabled individuals, or both, and households with high home energy burdens, are made aware of the assistance available" under the program.
In practice, outreach means the various activities LIHEAP state and local providers engage in to promote and increase program awareness with attendant goal of increased program enrollment. Outreach may also include activities designed to reach and enroll selected populations, also known as targeting. For example, a LIHEAP office may decide to target or prioritize its outreach efforts, in order to reach and enroll more elderly households, more lower-income households, more public assistance recipients, etc. Outreach may also include helping clients filling out their applications.
Effective outreach means the most needy households, or those the state has prioritized such as elderly or disabled, are made aware of the program as well as of other energy-related programs for which they may be eligible e.g., the Weatherization Assistance Program or utility-funded rate assistance. Effective outreach can streamline the application process, as well as the enrollment process.
Neither the LIHEAP statute nor the regulations define outreach or specify which activities are administrative or program. Therefore, when preparing budgets, states may decide whether outreach activities are part of their administrative costs or their program costs. As the Division of Energy Assistance stated in LIHEAP-IM-2000-12 (dated 3/15/2000):
"...outreach activities are not intrinsically administrative...The term encompasses activities that are administrative and others that are not."
According to a LIHEAP Clearinghouse compilation based on state plans and manuals, most states have chosen to place outreach activities under program costs, or under a separate category within program costs called "program support costs." All activities related to production of outreach information have generally been placed under program costs, although outreach printing costs have been put under administrative costs by at least one state.
Outreach and the LIHEAP Plan
In their annual LIHEAP plans, LIHEAP grantees are asked to check their outreach-related activities from a list of seven, and they may add other activities. The activities range from mass mailings to prior LIHEAP recipients to utilizing vendors and other social service offices for distribution of flyers and mailers or utility bill inserts, to providing intake services at home or by phone for the physically infirm. This table lists what activities each state uses.
States conduct outreach activities through their own offices, through their local administrative agencies (LAAs), or both. Many allow their LAAs to spend a certain amount of their LIHEAP funds for outreach. Some outreach activities may overlap with the coordination activities required in Assurance 4, that is, a state must:
"coordinate its activities under this title with similar and related programs administered by the Federal Government and such State, particularly low-income energy-related programs under subtitle B of title VI (relating to community services block grant program), under the supplemental security income program, under part A of title IV of the Social Security Act, under title XX of the Social Security Act, under the low-income weatherization assistance program under title IV of the Energy Conservation and Production Act, or under any other provision of law which carries out programs which were administered under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 before the date of the enactment of this Act;"
States may also utilize other state and local agencies and nonprofits that provide human services to help make their clients aware of LIHEAP. Some states work in partnership with their utilities, local agencies, and other entities to publicize LIHEAP.
Outreach initiatives may be reciprocal, that is, other state agencies will inform their clients about LIHEAP and, in turn, LIHEAP offices will help publicize their programs. Similarly, states may ask utilities to publicize LIHEAP and, in turn, they will publicize and help enroll households in their utility's rate assistance and weatherization programs.
For more information on outreach see:
- Colorado outreach incentive to get agencies to compete with their outreach strategies
- Illinois outreach requirements
- Maryland 2008 outreach plan for LIHEAP and rate-payer funded assistance
- Minnesota outreach requirements
- Wisconsin outreach requirements
- Wisconsin outreach form for documentation of activities
- PGE outreach (large California utility's outreach activities to diverse communities)