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LIHEAP Research Experiences of Selected Federal Social Welfare Programs and State LIHEAP Programs in Targeting Vulnerable Elderly and Young Child Households

Published: December 1, 2008
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Publications/Reports, Research, Case Studies

Research on State LIHEAP Targeting Procedures

This phase of the analysis included telephone interviews with 17 LIHEAP Directors representing States with high, moderate, and low elderly targeting indexes, and States with high, moderate, and low young child targeting indexes.  The objective in surveying these States was to learn more about their program targeting designs.  The interview specifically covered outreach initiatives, intake procedures, and benefit determination formulas, particularly those methods that proved successful in other social welfare programs. (See Appendix A for a copy of the interview topic guide.)  The analysis also assessed whether there appeared to be any relationship between targeting performance and program design.

Information Objectives

The purpose of contacting State LIHEAP Directors was to get information on how they target their LIHEAP programs using outreach initiatives, intake procedures, and/or benefit determination procedures. For targeting elderly households, the literature from other social welfare programs suggests that the following procedures could be effective.

  • Outreach
    • Programs can conduct outreach through agencies that serve elderly households, including Offices on Aging and the AARP; 
    • Programs can develop outreach materials that explicitly inform elderly households that they are eligible for the program and assets such as homes and cars do not negatively impact one’s eligibility for the program;
    • Programs can give elderly households enough information on program benefits that the household will perceive it is worthwhile to complete the application; and
    • Programs can send program information to elderly households that participate in other means-tested programs.
  • Intake
  • Programs can screen elderly households that participate in other programs for eligibility for LIHEAP (e.g., SSI);15
  • Programs can establish special application periods for elderly households;
  • Programs can reduce the application requirements for elderly households that have participated in LIHEAP in prior years;
  • Programs can develop alternative intake procedures or sites for elderly individuals; and 16
  • Programs can furnish assistance to elderly individuals in completing the LIHEAP application.
  • Programs can offer higher benefits to elderly households.  As research findings indicate that elderly households are more at risk from extreme temperatures, it may be appropriate to increase benefits for elderly households to ensure that they are able to maintain adequate indoor temperatures.  At the same time, higher benefits would encourage more elderly households to apply for benefits.
  • Benefits

For targeting young child households, the literature from other social welfare programs suggests that the following procedures could be effective.

  • Outreach
    • Programs can conduct outreach through agencies that serve young children, including the Head Start Program and Community Health Centers; 
    • Programs can develop outreach materials that explicitly inform working households with young children that they are eligible for the program and that assets such as homes and cars do not preclude eligibility for the program;
    • Programs can develop outreach materials that explicitly inform immigrant households with young children that they are eligible for the program and that applying or participating does not affect one’s immigration status; and
    • Programs can send program information to young child households that participate in other means-tested programs, particularly those that furnish benefits to working households (e.g., SCHIP).
  • Intake
  • Programs can screen young child households that participate in other programs for eligibility for LIHEAP (e.g., Food Stamps, TANF, SCHIP);
  • Programs can establish special application periods for young child households; and
  • Programs can have intake at agencies that serve young children.17
  • Programs can offer higher benefits to young child households.  As research findings indicate that young child households achieve significant benefits from participation in LIHEAP, it may be appropriate to increase benefits for young child households to ensure that they are able to maintain adequate indoor temperatures.  At the same time, higher benefits would encourage more young child households to apply for benefits.
  • Benefits

In the interviews with LIHEAP Directors, these program design features were explicitly discussed.

Findings for Targeting Elderly Households

Among the States interviewed, seven had a high elderly targeting index (100 or more), five had a moderate elderly targeting index (80 to 99), and five had a low elderly targeting index (less than 80).  The following tables present information on the share of States that used each of the identified procedures that would help to target elderly households and examine whether those States with higher indexes are more likely to use the procedures.

Outreach
Program outreach has three goals:

  • Awareness – Outreach should increase the awareness of the LIHEAP program;
  • Understanding – Outreach should help a client develop a better understanding of whether his or her household is eligible for LIHEAP benefits; what the requirements do and do not include; what the effect of applying and/or participating in the program will be; and how to apply for benefits; and
  • Motivation – Outreach should help motivate a client to apply for LIHEAP benefits.

Based on the research on other Federal social programs, it was hypothesized that a State LIHEAP program could increase the effectiveness of outreach to elderly households in several ways:

  • Agencies Serving Elderly – By conducting outreach through agencies that serve elderly households (e.g., Office on Aging, AARP), a State LIHEAP program may be able to reach more elderly households and get more attention since individuals trust those agencies;
  • Materials – By tailoring outreach materials to explicitly focus on elderly households, elderly clients may be more likely to pay attention to the information furnished by the materials;
  • Benefit Amount – By including the benefit amount in the outreach materials, clients may be more motivated to apply for benefits; and
  • Elderly Program Participants – Sending outreach materials to elderly households that participate in other programs may better focus outreach efforts on households that are likely to participate in assistance programs.

Tables 6-1 through 6-4 furnish information on the findings from interviews with 17 LIHEAP programs.  It does not appear that any of the identified outreach strategies were predictors of high elderly targeting rates.
Table 6-1 shows that most States conduct outreach through agencies serving the elderly (11 of 17 respondents).  However, some States that do not use this strategy have high elderly targeting rates as well.  Moreover, most States with low elderly targeting rates do use this strategy.  Based on these interviews, there is no evidence that this strategy can increase the elderly targeting rate independent of other strategies.
Table 6-1 – Outreach Through Agencies Serving Elderly


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

4

3

Moderate Elderly Targeting

3

2

Low Elderly Targeting

4

1

Tables 6-2, 6-3, and 6-4 show that few States have adopted the other outreach strategies recommended in the research.  Table 6-2 shows that only five States indicated they had some mention of elderly households or of issues relevant to elderly households in their outreach materials.  Table 6-3 shows that only two States reported they mention the benefit level in their outreach materials.  Table 6-4 shows that only two States reported they send outreach materials to elderly recipients of other Federal social welfare programs (SSI).  As so few States have adopted those strategies, it is difficult to assess whether they would be effective in increasing elderly targeting of LIHEAP benefits.
Table 6-2 – Outreach Materials Targeting Elderly


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

2

5

Moderate Elderly Targeting

0

5

Low Elderly Targeting

3

2

Table 6-3 – Outreach Materials with Benefit Amount


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

1

6

Moderate Elderly Targeting

0

5

Low Elderly Targeting

1

4


Table 6-4 – Outreach to Elderly Program Participants


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

1

6

Moderate Elderly Targeting

1

4

Low Elderly Targeting

0

5


Intake and Benefits
Program intake and benefit determination procedures can have a significant impact on the participation of elderly households in the LIHEAP program.  The LIHEAP program can use a number of different procedures to reduce program participation barriers, reduce program participation costs, or increase program participation benefits, including:

  • Screening – Some programs screen the recipients of other programs to assess eligibility for LIHEAP and automatically enroll clients in the program;
  • Priority – Some programs give priority to the elderly by establishing a special application period;
  • Reducing Barriers/Costs – Some programs establish special application procedures for the elderly, while others conduct outreach at special sites, or offer special assistance to elderly households; and
  • Increasing Benefits – Some programs offer additional benefits to elderly households in recognition of their special needs.  This has the added benefit of increasing the motivation of elderly households to participate.

Tables 6-5 through 6-10 furnish information on the findings from interviews with 17 LIHEAP programs.  It does not appear that any of the identified intake or benefit determination strategies are predictors of high elderly targeting rates.

Table 6-5 shows that a few States screen recipients of other programs that serve the elderly.  However, States with low targeting rates are just as likely as States with high rates to use this practice.  Similarly, Table 6-6 shows that some States have a special application period for elderly households.  However, again, there is no apparent relationship between the program feature and targeting.

Source: Special tabulation of the 2008 CPS ASEC by APPRISE.

Special tabulations prepared by APPRISE from the 2005 RECS show that 93 percent of elderly households report that they never skip paying their energy bill while only 64 percent of nonelderly households make that statement.

Special tabulations prepared by APPRISE from the 2005 RECS show that elderly households with incomes below poverty have equivalent energy bills but higher energy burdens than nonelderly households.

There is an important difference between outreach to participants of other programs and screening participants of other programs.  Outreach to program participants might increase administrative costs, since it would involve mailing applications to households that might not be interested in the program or eligible for the program.  Screening of program participants might actually reduce administrative costs, since it would involve qualifying households for benefits without additional intake office costs.

As discussed in Section IV of the report, community or social groups can be effective for outreach (i.e., furnishing information about the program).  However, service agencies such as AOA offices are more appropriate for intake since elderly households would be hesitant to apply for benefits at their senior center.

As discussed in Section IV of the report, schools or community groups can be effective for outreach (i.e., furnishing information about the program).  However, service agencies such as Head Start Centers are more appropriate for intake since young child households would not to apply for benefits at their child’s public school.

Table 6-5 – Screen Programs Serving Elderly


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

1

6

Moderate Elderly Targeting

2

3

Low Elderly Targeting

1

4

Table 6-6 – Special Application Period for Elderly


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

2

5

Moderate Elderly Targeting

1

4

Low Elderly Targeting

3

2

Tables 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 furnish statistics on the use of intake procedures that attempt to reduce barriers for elderly households.  Some States (6 of 17) have special application requirements for elderly households (e.g., abbreviated application forms).  However, Table 6-7 demonstrates that the availability of such procedures is not associated with a higher elderly targeting index.  Most States (14 of 17) offer alternative intake sites or procedures (e.g., mail application) for elderly households.  Table 6-8 shows that there is no difference between the high and low targeting States in the availability of these procedures.  Some States (6 of 17) offer special assistance for elderly households.  However, as seen in Table 6-9, the low targeting States are the most likely to offer this assistance.  It seems unlikely that offering assistance would reduce elderly targeting.  Rather, it is likely that other factors for the States that offer application assistance are responsible for reducing targeting of elderly households.

Table 6-7 – Special Application Requirements for Elderly


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

2

5

Moderate Elderly Targeting

1

4

Low Elderly Targeting

3

2

Table 6-8 – Alternative Intake Sites or Procedures for Elderly


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

6

1

Moderate Elderly Targeting

3

2

Low Elderly Targeting

5

0

Table 6-9 – Application Assistance for Elderly Households


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

2

4

Moderate Elderly Targeting

0

5

Low Elderly Targeting

4

1

Table 6-10 furnishes statistics on the availability of higher benefits for elderly households.  About half of the States (8 of 17) have higher benefits.  However, there appears to be no relationship to the elderly targeting index.

Table 6-10 – Higher Benefit for Elderly Households


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Elderly Targeting

2

5

Moderate Elderly Targeting

4

1

Low Elderly Targeting

2

3

Findings for Targeting Young Child Households

Among the States interviewed, eight had a high young child targeting index (120 or more), four had a moderate targeting index (100 to 119), and five had a low targeting index (less than 100).  The following tables present information on the share of States that used each of the procedures identified from the literature review that would help to target young child households and examine whether those States with higher indexes are more likely to use the procedures.
Outreach
Based on the research on other Federal social programs, it was hypothesized that a State LIHEAP program could increase the effectiveness of outreach to young child households in several ways:

  • Agencies Serving Young Children – By conducting outreach through agencies that serve young child households (e.g., Head Start, Community Health Centers, etc.), a State LIHEAP program may be able to reach more young child households;
  • Materials – By tailoring outreach materials to explicitly focus on issues for young child households (e.g., indicating that working households can receive benefits and that legal immigrants can receive benefits), those households may be more likely to pay attention to the information furnished by the materials;
  • Benefit Amount – By including the benefit amount in the outreach materials, clients that have to take time off from work to apply for the program may be more motivated to apply for benefits; and
  • Young Child Program Participants – Sending outreach materials to young child households that participate in other programs (e.g., WIC) may better focus outreach efforts on households that are likely to participate in assistance programs.

Tables 6-11 through 6-14 furnish information on the findings from interviews with 17 LIHEAP programs.  It does not appear that any of the identified outreach strategies were predictors of high young child targeting rates.
Table 6-11 shows that some States conduct outreach through agencies serving the young children (6 of 17 respondents).  However, some States that do not use this strategy still have high young child targeting rates.  Moreover, most States with low young child targeting rates do use this strategy.  Based on these interviews, there is no evidence that this strategy can increase the young child targeting rate independent of other strategies.
Table 6-11 – Outreach Through Agencies Serving Young Children


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Young Child Targeting

1

7

Moderate Young Child Targeting

2

2

Low Young Child Targeting

3

2

Tables 6-12, 6-13, and 6-14 show that few States have adopted the other outreach strategies that recommended in the research.  Table 6-12 shows that only four States indicated that they had some mention of young child households or of issues relevant to young child households in their outreach materials.  Table 6-13 shows that only one State reported that they mention the benefit level in their outreach materials.  Table 6-14 shows that only five States reported that they send outreach materials to young child recipients of other social welfare programs.  As so few States have adopted those strategies, it is difficult to assess whether they would be effective in increasing young child targeting of LIHEAP benefits.
Table 6-12 – Outreach Materials Targeting Working Families


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Young Child Targeting

2

6

Moderate Young Child Targeting

1

3

Low Young Child Targeting

1

4

Table 6-13 – Outreach Materials Targeting Immigrant Families


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Young Child Targeting

0

8

Moderate Young Child Targeting

1

3

Low Young Child Targeting

0

5

Table 6-14 – Outreach to Young Child Participants of Other Programs


Targeting Group

Yes

No

High Young Child Targeting

2

6

Moderate Young Child Targeting

3

1

Low Young Child Targeting

0

5