| HHS/ACF Taking Public Comment on New Performance Measures
On June 6, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), published a notice in the Federal Register about new LIHEAP performance measures, which would involve supplementary data reporting by grantees. Public comments about the proposal can be submitted for 60 days from the date of the notice.
The performance measures resulted from a process that began in 2003, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) conducted a program assessment of LIHEAP. It concluded LIHEAP lacked "meaningful performance measures" and "results [were] not demonstrated." In June 2008, HHS formed the LIHEAP Performance Measures Work Group to bring state LIHEAP directors together to create performance measures.
After about a year and a half, the group recommended a set of "tiered" LIHEAP performance measures to ACF. The group also recommended that state grantees be required to report on three outcome measures. ACF accepted the recommendations, and the Federal Register notice relates to collecting data to support the following performance measures:
The average reduction in energy burden for households receiving LIHEAP fuel assistance
The percent of unduplicated households where LIHEAP prevented a potential energy crisis
The percent of unduplicated households where LIHEAP benefits restored home energy
The notice outlines in detail what kinds of data would be required for each of the measures. The data would necessitate the sharing of information between state grantees, sub-grantees, and utilities. ACF also explains that the collected data would be reported through the Online Data Collection (OLDC) system provided by ACF, which some grantees are already using. The reporting would be optional for tribes, tribal organizations, and territories.
ACF specifically requests comments on the following: whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the agency's performance and if the data would have a practical use; the accuracy of the ACF estimate of the burden resulting from the data collection; the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of collecting information, including using automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
The tentative timeline for the new performance measures is that state grantees would start collecting the data in FY 2015 (beginning October. 1, 2014) and start reporting the data in FY 2016 (beginning October. 1, 2015). States that are already collecting these data will be able to report them to HHS for FY 2014.
To assist grantees, the LIHEAP Performance Measures Implementation Group started in 2010. It hopes to learn best practices from states already utilizing centralized systems that allow the state, utilities, and local agencies to share information. The implementation group plans to share this type of information through trainings and a new website for grantees only. Both group members and ACF staff are prioritizing training and technical assistance during the rest of 2013 and 2014 to assist states in collecting the required information.
Jeannie Chaffin, director of the Office of Community Service within ACF, discussed the need for performance measures at the 2013 National Energy and Utility Affordability Conference held in San Diego June 10-12. She told attendees how important it is to have data illustrating the impact of LIHEAP funds. During conference workshops, numerous speakers discussed how the performance measures will provide a more complete picture of LIHEAP's necessity and address past criticisms, such as those raised by the 2003 OMB report.
At a grantee training on June 7 and 8 in San Diego attended by over 30 state and 50 tribal representatives, HHS and working group members demonstrated the OLDC reporting system and the grantee performance measures site. Training materials will be posted on the ACF website.
Throughout the June conference, ACF staff encouraged interested parties to submit comments on the proposed measures. According to the Federal Register notice, comments can be sent to:
ATTN: ACF Reports Clearance Officer
Administration for Children Families, Office of Administration, Office of Information Services
370 L'Enfant Promenade SW
Washington DC 20447
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cooling Programs Operating in at Least 14 States
Around the country, the mercury continues to rise as spring turns into summer, signaling a transition in some states from LIHEAP heating to cooling assistance. By mid-June, at least 14 seasonal cooling programs were operating.
While some states run seasonal cooling programs, 11 states either operate year-round or provide benefits through their year-round crisis programs. More than 10 states will provide air conditioners to eligible households, and numerous cooling programs prioritize households with senior or disabled members.
Among the variations in programs, Ohio operates a summer crisis program, which provides assistance for electric bills for households with members 60-plus and/or household members under the age of 60 who have a physician's statement verifying that they have an illness that would benefit from continued electric service. It also provides a limited number of air conditioners.
Nebraska works through a statewide network of 63 agencies to distribute fans and accepts applications online for electric bill assistance.
Missouri accepts cooling assistance applications from June 1 through September 30. Applicants must have received a shut-off notice or be without electric service in order to receive up to $300 in assistance. Program funds can be used towards the purchase of an air conditioner for households with a member 65 years or older or a documented medical condition. In some counties, agencies have received air conditioners through utilities or other program funds, which they are distributing to LIHEAP-eligible households.
Texas provides assistance for heating and cooling expenses year round. Additionally, some utilities provide assistance such as Reliant Energy, which has opened "Beat the Heat" centers in Dallas, Houston and Corpus Christi providing air conditioned spaces, adult and youth activities and snacks. The utility's CARE (Community Assistance from Reliant Energy) program has limited funding for electric bill assistance, along with deposit installment plans, payment extensions and deferred payment plans.
For an overview of the states offering cooling assistance and a summary of their programs, visit the Clearinghouse website.
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LOW INCOME ENERGY PUBLICATIONS
Leaders of the Pack: ACEEE's Third National Review of Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs,, American Council for An Energy-Efficiency Economy, June 2013. The report identifies 63 leading energy-efficiency programs offered to utility customers that are paid for, at least in part, by ratepayers. Among the categories is "Residential Low Income," in which three programs earned the "exemplary" rating. They are: Efficiency Vermont's Comprehensive Low-Income Services; National Grid's Low-Income Retrofit Program; and Action for Boston Community Development's Low-Income Multi-Family Energy Retrofits/LEAN Multi-Family Program.
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The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, organizations or program activities imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or compliance with HHS regulations.