Arizona's REACH Program Evaluation Summary
The Arizona Department of Economic Security, Community Services Administration (DES/CSA) developed a program of holistic case management and a self-sufficiency approach to reducing poverty in Arizona's rural areas. Support for participants was offered through six Community Action Agencies (CAAs) that serve primarily rural communities in 13 of Arizona's 15 counties.
Three Years: October 1998 through June 2001
$1,050,000 from the federal LIHEAP program and another $1.6 million in matched service funds for REACH, which included a state match of $247,000 to fund training for REACH CAA staffs and the development of a tracking and reporting database.
The goals of the program were: 1) to increase the level of overall self-sufficiency for households participating in the program; 2) to reduce the energy burden and increase the level of energy self-sufficiency for participating households by reducing energy costs, increasing income, and/or reducing energy usage; and 3) to increase agency focus on holistic approaches to increasing self-sufficiency and achieving outcomes.
The Arizona REACH program developed and used scales to assess the level of self-sufficiency for a household in each of the 15 service areas (including energy assistance, energy efficiency, energy management practices, income, employment, health care, language and literacy, adult education, shelter, childcare, food and nutrition, support network, family relations, transportation and mobility and community involvement), and to track changes in self-sufficiency over time. The case managers recorded the levels of self-sufficiency based on their assessment of the household. The assessments were made at intake, referral, follow up, and close out. The range of the self-sufficiency scales was from 1 to 5, with each level defined as follows: 1) in crisis, 2) vulnerable, 3) stable, 4) building capacity, and 5) empowered. A household was not considered to be self-sufficient in a given service area until the household reached a level of 5.
Energy burden is essentially the percentage of a household's income spent on energy bills; thus, energy burden reductions can occur through either reductions in energy bills or through an increase in household income.
All REACH clients must meet LIHEAP income eligibility requirements. This was the only statewide eligibility criterion, although DES/SCA encouraged the use of energy burden as a criterion as well. In order to respect the diversity of low-income households' needs and encourage innovation, DES/CSA permitted the CAAs to establish other eligibility criteria they believed would enable them to serve households who most needed and could most benefit from the program.
All six subgrantees initially established an energy burden criterion, which ranged from 11% to 16%. Some prioritized specific populations such as single parents, families with young children, elderly or handicapped clients. Two subgrantees targeted specific geographic areas within their service territories. After more experience with the program, four of the six CAAs changed their eligibility criteria.
The program assumption was that low-income households need substantial assistance and a range of energy services to deal with the impacts of high energy burdens. DES/SCA determined that in order to increase energy self-sufficiency, households and agencies must also focus on increasing overall self-sufficiency, in addition to providing energy assistance and energy education. The Arizona REACH assisted clients to access services in other areas throughout the community in order to improve education, job skills, income, and job stability.
The program provided case management for and referrals to the fifteen types of services aforementioned
A total of 874 households participated in the Arizona REACH program. According to an independent evaluation, the program achieved all three of the State Performance Goals for participating households, including the following:
- The REACH program increased overall self-sufficiency by 18% and increased energy self-sufficiency in the three energy-related scales by 21%;
- The program also reduced household energy burden by 18%, from 40% to 33%; and
- For those households that used a holistic approach and completed all of their goals, energy burden was reduced by 30% on average.
The largest changes in average self-sufficiency levels were in energy assistance and employment.
While the results in self-sufficiency were positive and significant, the evaluation notes that the REACH households were not completely self-sufficient nor energy self-sufficient after program participation. The average household energy burden of 33% after participation is not affordable. However, the strong energy efficiency component initially proposed for this program could not be implemented as planned due to the low level of Department of Energy funding for Arizona's Weatherization Assistance Program. The shift in focus to non-energy strategies to increase income and, thus, reduce energy burden was impaired by the lack of available resources (i.e. livable wages and affordable housing) for low-income households in rural Arizona.
Of the 15 service areas on the Arizona self-sufficiency matrix, the REACH subgrantees ranked the following as the most important in terms of making a difference in low-income households increasing in levels of self-sufficiency: 1) employment, 2) income, 3) shelter/housing, 4) transportation, and tied for 5) food and language/literacy.
The evaluation also reports that the program caused important changes in the overall philosophy, the approach to reducing poverty and the service delivery systems in the six participating CAAs, as well as in relationships with other resources in the communities and with DES. However, this change was not universally experienced by all clients because 1) agencies were overloaded with crisis needs for more households than could be served by a full case management approach, and 2) not all clients responded effectively to the case management/family development approach.