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Nebraska's REACH Program

REACH Project/Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services
Lincoln Action
Program/Lincoln, Nebraska

Allocation: 1996, $600,000, including $100,000 for energy efficiency education

Project Assumptions

• Low income populations are heterogeneous.

• Participants want to lower energy bills.

• Behavior changes occur as a result of:

  • Logic
  • Reasoning
  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Incentives

• Financial assistance alone does not alleviate the causes of energy usage crises for families.

• A wide spectrum of services are required to overcome barriers.

• All participants and their families have strengths and resources which can be applied to meeting their needs, energy and otherwise.

• Low income residents spend a greater proportion of their income on energy usage compared to higher income residents.

• Low income participants have a great need for money management skills.

• Participants want to increase the comfort level of their residences.

• Participants' weatherization needs vary widely.

• There is a need for financial assistance to low income participants.

• All family members affect energy usage.


Project Goals

• Reduce energy costs.

• Attain greater energy self-sufficiency.

• Make better use of income.

• Reduce homelessness as a result of an inability to pay energy bills.


Project Design

•Recruitment

  • Utility companies inform delinquent customers of the availability of REACH program.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (i.e., DHHS) refers potential participants to the project.
  • Salvation Army HeatShare refers potential participants to REACH.

• Screening

  • 100% Poverty Level
  • Lived in Residence for at least One Year
  • Not Planning to Move in the Near Future
  • Lives in Enterprise Community

• Sign release forms and agreement of participation.

• Case Management

  • Conduct pre- and post-assessments using Family Development Scale.
  • Provide comprehensive, flexible, individualized case management.
  • Provide ongoing linkage to comprehensive array of services via Lincoln Action Program's (i.e., LAP's) resource publications and participant newsletter.
  • Review utility bills with participants monthly.
    • Facilitate setting of energy goals.
    • Develop personalized household budget with each participant.

• 12 - 18 Hours of Educational Training / Energy Efficiency Education

  • Conduct pre-, post-, and follow-up assessments.
  • Engage in overview of REACH and community resource workshop.
  • Engage in self-help home weatherproofing workshop.
  • Engage in household energy efficiency workshop.
  • Engage in household money management workshop.
  • Engage in budgeting workshop.
  • Complete REACH Training Manual.

• Home Energy Efficiency Measures

  • Lincoln Electric System (i.e., LES) will perform energy audits in the homes of participants.
  • Set energy goals emphasizing energy efficient household practices based on data obtained from the audit.
  • Complete self-help home weatherproofing based on results obtained from the audit.
  • If eligible, apply for LAP's Weatherization Assistance Program.

• Family Involvement Strategies

  • Receive staggered payments toward utility bills dependent on completion of activities in the REACH Project.
  • Installment #1-After completion of customized energy audit
  • Installment #2-After completion of all energy efficient education and household money management and budget training
  • Installment 43-After completion of installation of self-help weatherproofing, establishing energy efficient behavioral goals based on results of customized energy audit, and written household budget or money management spending plan
  • Participate in LAP's Bonus Point Incentive Program by adults and children for successful participation in REACH activities and reporting energy usage.
  • • Involve all family members in energy efficiency education through participation in REACH Kids classes and completion of REACH Kids Training Manual.

Collaboration

• Task Force to devise the REACH customized energy audit-All project partners were involved in decisions concerning the creation of the REACH customized energy audit. Special thanks go to LES and Mike Lang, Energy Management Specialist, for spearheading this effort.

• Donation of the services of Mike Lang by LES to the REACH Project of at least two full working days each week so that he might conduct energy audits and report results

• Reports by case managers concerning several cases where utility shut-offs were delayed by LES and People's Natural Gas (i.e., PNG) when advocacy for the participant in REACH assured the utility company that a particular client was cooperating to the fullest extent in the REACH Project, and a staggered payment would be forthcoming

Provision of energy efficiency and safety booklets geared for children and adults by LES, PNG, and the Nebraska Energy Office (i.e., NEO)

• Donation of the services of Dave Skomer by NEO to teach energy efficiency classes to REACH participants

• Sharing of PRISM software, computer hardware and facilities by NEO to the REACH third party evaluator, CCFL, which will be used to normaHm for weather data in determining significant differences in energy usage

• Donation of the services of Ken Killman and Linda Maraman of the Consumer Credit Counseling Services (i.e., CCCS)to provide household money management and budget training to participants in REACH on an ongoing basis

• Referrals by case managers from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (i.e., DHHS) and cooperation to work out scheduling conflicts for clients needing to attend REACH classes or energy audits

• Cooperation in providing utility assistance to participants by REACH and The Salvation Army HEATSHARE Program

• Cooperation in providing housing subsidy information on REACH clients by Lincoln Housing Authority staff

Potential Impact on Participants

• Case Management: Reduction in Barriers to Self-Sufficiency

  • Participants gain skills so they are better able to handle crises as they arise.
  • Participants experience fewer crises that impede project participation.
  • Participants experience improved basic life skills. Participants improve self-esteem.
  • Participants improve decision making skills.
  • Participants increase knowledge of community resources.
  • Participants increase use of supportive services.

• Educational Training: Household Money Management and Budgeting

  • Participants improve knowledge of household money management and budgeting.
  • Develop skills in applying household money management and budgeting techniques.
  • Make better use of income.
  • Participants live within a personal household budget and money management plan.

• Educational Training: Energy Efficiency Education and Self-Help Weatherproofing

  • Participants improve knowledge of energy efficiency and self-help weatherproofing.
  • Develop skills in applying simple home weatherproofing improvements.
  • Develop skills in applying household energy efficiency measures.
  • Increase the comfort level of the residence.
  • Reduce energy usage.
  • Reduce energy costs.
  • Attain greater energy self-sufficiency.

• Home Energy Efficiency Measures

  • Participants improve knowledge of energy efficiency and self-help weatherproofing
  • Develop skills in applying simple home weatherproofing improvements.
  • Develop skills in applying household energy efficiency measures.
  • Improve insulation of residence.
  • Increase the comfort level of the residence.
  • Reduce energy usage, energy costs.
  • Attain greater energy self-sufficiency.

Program Lessons

• Participant recruitment has been extremely effective and is on track to obtain the projected number of participants by program's end.

• At the time of the interim evaluation report, there was a deficit in the number of control group participants. Since then, recruitment efforts have been stepped up, and additional incentives have been added. $25 financial assistance with a $5 incentive resulted in a 70% return rate. $50 financial assistance with no incentive resulted in an 82% return rate. $50 financial assistance with a $1 incentive resulted in a 90% return rate.

• From the customized home energy audit, a behavioral checklist was devised for case managers to work with participants to establish behaviorally-related energy goals for their homes. After determining goals with the individual participant households, case managers use the checklist as a means to measure whether the participants are applying the educational knowledge they were taught in the classes to achieve the energy goals they set. It is an effective tool for use by case managers in the field.

• Using tools like the Family Development Scale, case managers are able to evaluate other variables that may be hindering participants' progress in the program (e.g., lack of transportation) and can aid them in resolving these barriers. Based on the information they obtain, case managers more often provide participants with referrals to other community resources rather than providing long-term case management aid themselves.

• Participants are urged to retain their utility bills for the purpose of tracking data for the REACH Project. Of course, energy usage has been obtained through the utility companies, since release forms have been signed by participants, and in many ways, this is inherently more valid than self-reporting of data. Still, the utility companies prefer participants continue to report energy usage as a demonstration of support and involvement in REACH even beyond completion of all REACH activities. To encourage self-reporting of energy usage, this project has tied awarding of Bonus Point incentives each month to the reporting of energy data. These points can in turn be redeemed for merchandise at LAP's Clothing and Household Goods Bank. The response to this aspect of the incentive program has proved positive. In the control group alone, there has been a 500% increase in reporting of energy data directly attributed to the Bonus Point incentive.

• AmeriCorps members working with REACH have set up a Hardware Comer in Lincoln Action Program's Clothing and Household Goods Bank and are devising a plan to solicit donations for the Roundup for Weatherproofing Program. Much of the merchandise in in the Hardware Comer is already provided by donations from some local hardware mer (e.g., Baker Tru-Value) and items ordered through the NAIER catalogue provided to nonprofit agencies. Turnover for the hardware merchandise in the Clothing and Household Goods Bank is great. By soliciting further donations from other sources in a Roundup for Weatherproofing Program, These efforts will go far beyond the scope of REACH and will enhance low income persons' abilities to access weatherproofing materials and home maintenance supplies which could lead to greater energy self-sufficiency.

• Data Collection Issues

  • The shear quantity of data collected by the project was underestimated.
  • Many REACH participants have moved during the course of participation.
  • In many cases, the moves are justified in that the participant is improving a life situation.
  • Nevertheless, a large number of participants must be taken into the program in order to maintain a sufficient sample size for research purposes.
  • There are significant increases in post-test scores measuring knowledge gained in energy efficiency education and household money management and budget training /workshops indicated by paired sample t test results.
  • Given the substantial increases in scores found immediately after the trainings, the training aspect of the program certainly appears to be having a desired effect upon program participants. If this knowledge is retained over a substantial period of time, as measured by six month follow-up data, in conjunction with potential energy savings and reductions in energy related bills, this may well be an extremely successful demonstration project and a possible model for long-term energy efficiency and self-sufficiency programs.

New Technology Applications

Initial test runs of the Princeton Scorekeeping Method Software (i.e., PRISM), used for the normalization of energy usage for weather differences, provided by the Nebraska Energy Office, conducted by REACH's third party evaluator, Center for Children, Families and Law (i.e., CCFL) and the REACH energy auditor from Lincoln Electric System (i.e., LES), indicated this software will be extremely useful in analyses of the outcome data on energy usage reduction. Weather normalized consumption data for both kWh usage and adjusted CCF usage and normalized annual savings post- intervention are produced for experimental and control participants from this software. This data will provide a very valuable piece of information pertaining to the overall outcome effects of the REACH Program.