Oregon's REACH Program Evaluation Summary
The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department implemented its REACH project in twenty-six Oregon counties. They include rural areas of Western Oregon (served by ACCESS, CAT, Inc., CSC, JOCO, UCAN), urban areas of Western Oregon (served by Clackamas Co. SS, Multnomah CAPO, CAO, LANE), and sparsely populated areas of Eastern Oregon (served by CCN, CAPECO, MidColumbia). These areas represent 85 percent of Oregon's low-income population and include Oregon's two enterprise communities - the Illinois Valley, Wolf Creek, and Sunny Valley areas of Josephine County and the north Portland area of Multnomah County.
The Department contracted with 13 community-based organizations, listed above, to deliver the services.
$1,600,000, which includes $100,000 for energy education.
Oregon's REACH program attempted to develop resource management skills that led low-income households to:
- Reduce their energy consumption
- Remain current in their fuel bill payments
- Reduce home heating and/or cooling costs
- Eliminate health and safety risks to family members
Client Eligibility Criteria
To be eligible to participate in the REACH program, a family receiving LIHEAP Assistance must be spending at least twenty percent (20%) of their household income on energy costs and have an arrearage that exceeds $100. Participants were also chosen if their house structure or heating equipment represented a potential health or safety risk and if they appeared to be strongly motivated to participate. The local REACH coordinators selected the participants in the program.
Services and benefits included the following: co-payments on energy bills, energy education, residential repair and weatherization assistance, family services related to budget management and payment plans, and case management. Local agencies leveraged resources for REACH operations and negotiated with energy suppliers to develop payment plans for reducing arrearages of REACH participants.
The program was structured on the needs of individual households; each household received a somewhat different package of services. Each package was negotiated separately with each client, based on household need and service availability in the community.
The REACH evaluation, completed by Public Policy Research in December 1999, focused on a representative sample of 286 participants who occupied all-electric homes. The evaluation was designed with a control group and two treatment groups. The control group was selected from a sample of LIHEAP recipients who received an energy assistance payment and in-office education but didn't participate in the REACH program. One treatment group received education and weatherization, while the second treatment group received education and all the program benefits that the first treatment group did, but didn't receive the weatherization/equipment repair component.
The evaluation examined if and to what extent REACH's impact had on participants by assessing the following three measures: 1) utility arrearages, 2) energy consumption, and 3) household energy burden. Regression analyses were used to determine the findings listed below.
- In the year they participated in the program, both groups of REACH participants consumed 11 percent less energy (metered electricity) than they had in the pre-REACH year.
Additional analyses of the follow up period revealed reductions in weather-normalized energy use persisted in the treatment groups a year after the program ended.
- Both groups of REACH clients reduced the amount of their utility arrearages as a result of their participation in the program. The education group experienced a 42 percent reduction, while the education and weatherization group achieved 48 percent reduction.
- Participation in the program also led to an average decline of 2.5 percent in the energy burden for both experimental groups.
The program served 1,578 households in its two-year operation. All clients were asked to complete an exit questionnaire about their REACH experience. The consensus of participants during both years the Client Survey was administered was that REACH was extremely beneficial to their families. Over two-thirds of the participants said that REACH had helped to make their homes healthier and safer. Additionally, 80 percent reported that REACH had helped to make their homes more comfortable and energy efficient.
According to the evaluation, REACH also aimed to ensure that 50 percent of the households would not incur new arrearages after six months. The results show that initially 59 percent of clients had arrearages, but after participation in the program only 36 percent continued to have arrearages.
The program attempted to lower energy consumption by 15 percent in 75 percent of the homes. The analysis revealed that this reduction was 15 percent or more for only 23 percent of the participants. The program, therefore, did not achieve the targeted goal of reduction, but the program did surpass the target level for completion of household action plans.
A copy of the evaluation is available on the web at:
Contact: Melissa Torgerson
LIHEAP Program Coordinator
Oregon Housing and Community Services