RESOURCE LIBRARY – Project Descriptions – Bill Payment Assistance2019-10-11T16:29:37+00:00

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APPRISE Projects

Low-Income Bill Payment Assistance Program Research and Evaluation

APPRISE conducted a comprehensive evaluation of Allegheny Power’s Universal Service Programs. The evaluation research included interviews with Allegheny and agency program managers and staff, surveys with participating and nonparticipating customers, analysis of program databases, and analysis of the impacts of the payment assistance program on energy affordability, payment compliance, arrearages, and collections costs.
Ameren’s Keeping Current Program provides electric bill payment assistance and arrearage forgiveness to low-income customers. APPRISE is currently undertaking its fourth evaluation of the program.  This evaluation will include in-depth interviews with current participants and with previous successful program participants.  The evaluation will also include analysis of program benefits delivered, and the impact of the program on affordability, bill payment, and collections actions.
Ameren introduced a pilot of a low-income payment assistance program that provides electric bill payment assistance to low-income customers. Participants receive monthly bill credits toward their electric bill and additional credits toward their arrearages. APPRISE provided an evaluation of this program in 2012 that included interviews with local agencies that conduct intake for the program, a survey of participating customers, analysis of program data, and analysis of program impacts on affordability, payment coverage, and terminations. Ameren made program modifications in response to findings from the initial evaluation. APPRISE conducted a follow-up Process and Impact Evaluation of the program in 2014 that documented the impacts of the program changes. APPRISE conducted a third evaluation of this program in 2016 that included interviews with defaulted customers, analysis of program data, and analysis of the impacts of the program on affordability and bill payment. Findings from this research were used to further refine the program.

APPRISE is conducting an evaluation of Baltimore Gas and Electric’s (BGE) Pre-Payment Pilot Program.  This program will offer a pre-payment option to a random sample of BGE customers.  The evaluation will assess the characteristics of customers who opt into the program, motivation for enrolling, satisfaction with the program, and the impact of the program on energy usage, bill payment, arrearages, collections costs, and other costs.  The research will include stakeholder engagement; a participant survey; and analysis of program, energy usage, billing, payment, arrearage, and collections data.

Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) designed and implemented pilot programs to determine the effect of energy bill discounts and payment counseling on the payment timeliness of limited-income customers. The Graduated Rate Discount (GRAD) Program provided a range of usage-based discounts. Some of the customers also received a home energy audit or payment counseling phone calls. The Customer Assistance Maintenance Program (CAMP) pilot tested changes to BGE’s CAMP including increased bill credits, payment counseling, or both. APPRISE’s process and impact evaluation assessed the effectiveness of these pilots in increasing customers’ on-time bill payment and energy conservation behavior.

APPRISE conducted research to assist the Colorado’s Governor’s Commission on Low-Income Energy Assistance to develop recommendations to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the state’s low-income energy assistance services. The research included analysis of American Community Survey data, the Colorado LIHEAP database, and the Energy Outreach Colorado database; review and assessment of current LIHEAP procedures and implementation; surveys with participating and non-participating low-income households; and interviews with program managers at the state and agency level.
Duquesne Light implemented Universal Service Programs to improve affordability for low-income customers. The programs include the Customer Assistance Program (CAP), which provides reduced payments and arrearage forgiveness; Smart Comfort, which provides energy efficiency and energy education services; CARES, which provides outreach and referral services; and the Hardship Fund, which provides emergency assistance. APPRISE conducted an evaluation of the performance of these programs and the integration among the different programs. The research included interviews with program and agency staff, a participant survey, and analysis of the impacts of the program on affordability and payment compliance.
FirstEnergy implemented Universal Service Programs to help low-income customers maintain electric service and protect customers’ health and safety. The programs include the CAP Program, which provides reduced payments and arrearage forgiveness; LIURP/WARM, which provides energy efficiency and energy education services; CARES, which provides outreach and referral services; the Hardship Fund, which provides emergency assistance; and Gatekeeper, where field personnel recognize and report customers who may be in distress. APPRISE conducted an evaluation of the performance of these programs, their ability to help low-income customers maintain affordable service, and the integration among the different programs. This evaluation included analysis of program databases, interviews with FirstEnergy managers and staff, interviews with staff at organizations that implement the programs; and analysis of the impact of CAP on bills, customer payments, and affordability.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) has designed the Percent of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) pilot to help low-income households maintain energy service throughout the year and reduce the health and safety risks associated with energy service disruption. The PIPP program offers LIHEAP recipients arrearage forgiveness and a fixed payment plan in the place of a one-time LIHEAP grant. It also tests the effectiveness of offering weatherization and energy conservation, as well as counseling and education services to program participants. It is important for HFS to have information on the appropriateness of the program development, the effectiveness of the program implementation, and the program impact on participating clients and the participating utility. APPRISE conducted a process and impact evaluation of this program that assessed whether the program was implemented effectively and whether the program achieved its intended effect on clients.
Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company offer a Home Energy Assistance (HEA) Program to assist the poorest households in their service territories least able to afford to pay their energy bills. Funded by ratepayers and shareholders, the programs (structured differently by company) provide fixed monthly credits to LIHEAP participants. APPRISE conducted a comprehensive HEA assessment to analyze the program management, availability, and customer participation; assess impacts on payments, arrearages, collections actions, and weatherization participation; and make recommendations for program improvement.

National Fuel Gas provides bill payment assistance, energy efficiency services, emergency bill payment assistance, and holistic case management services to assist low-income customers. APPRISE is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of these programs. The research includes analysis of program data, interviews with program managers and staff, interviews with service delivery agencies and contractors, in-depth interviews with program participants, and analysis of the impacts of bill payment assistance on energy affordability, bill payment, arrearages, service terminations, and collections costs.

The New Jersey Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral for Energy Services (NJ SHARES) is a nonprofit corporation organized to provide assistance to individuals and families living in New Jersey who are in need of temporary help paying their energy bills. APPRISE conducts an annual impact evaluation of the New Jersey SHARES program. The evaluation includes analysis of administrative and utility data to assess the program’s impact on maintenance of electric and gas service and on energy bill payment.  Some of the previous evaluations also included surveys and in-depth participant interviews to assess whether the crises had been resolved, what additional assistance was needed, and the interest and potential for energy efficiency program participation.   APPRISE also serves as an advisor to the NJ SHARES Board of Directors.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) created the Universal Service Fund (USF) to help low- and fixed-income residents pay for electric and natural gas service. The BPU staff is responsible for developing policies and procedures for implementation of the USF program. As part of those responsibilities, the staff developed a Data Tracking System that can furnish the information that the BPU needs to manage and evaluate the effectiveness of the USF program. APPRISE developed a draft set of specifications and an implementation plan for the USF Data Tracking System. The specifications identify the information needed for three purposes: operations, regulatory oversight, and evaluation. The implementation plan identifies the process by which detailed specifications will be developed and the schedule for implementing different components of the Data Tracking System.
The New Jersey Universal Service Fund (USF) program provides fixed credits to eligible low-income families to limit electric and gas bills to six percent of household income. APPRISE conducted a process and impact evaluation of this program. This evaluation provided information on the benefits and costs of the USF program and alternatives for program design and operations. Program evaluation research consisted of administrative interviews, client surveys, program and utility data analysis, and financial data analysis.
APPRISE has provided estimates of energy costs by fuel type and household size for low-income households in New York for the New York Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) office. These estimates were used in New York’s LIHEAP Statewide Annual Energy Cost Standard by Primary Fuel Type that is used in the NY HEAP benefits tables.
Ohio’s Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP) was revised as the PIPP Plus in November 2010. The program helps low-income households maintain utility service by providing a reduced bill based on a percentage of the household’s annual income. APPRISE conducted an evaluation of this program to assess the effectiveness of the changes to PIPP that aimed to provide incentives for regular, on-time payments and consequences for failure to adhere to program rules. The research included administrative interviews, participant surveys, and analysis of program and utility data.

APPRISE is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the energy assistance programs managed by the Oregon Housing and Community Service Department. Research objectives include assessing the impact, marketing, outreach, and accessibility of current LIHEAP and ratepayer-funded energy assistance programs; and evaluating the effectiveness of current and alternative program delivery models. As part of this evaluation, APPRISE is conducting organizational research, a market assessment study, a participant survey, in-depth interviews, and a quantitative impact assessment. In addition, APPRISE is implementing a community-based participatory research approach to engage local and state community organizations as research partners. Community research partners will provide input and assist in outreach and data collection efforts with members of underserved populations.

PECO implemented Universal Service Programs to help low-income customers maintain energy services and protect customers’ health and safety. The programs include CAP which provides reduced payments and arrearage forgiveness, LIURP which provides energy efficiency and energy education services, CARES which provides outreach and referral services, and MEAP which provides emergency financial assistance for overdue energy bills. The 2019 evaluation conducted by APPRISE included a review of program procedures and implementation; customer needs assessment; interviews with program managers and implementation partners; customer surveys; and an analysis of the impact of the program on energy affordability, bill payment, collections, and energy usage.

APPRISE conducted an evaluation of Peoples Natural Gas Universal Service Programs.  Peoples’ Universal Service Programs provide reduced natural gas bills, arrearage forgiveness, emergency bill payment assistance, energy efficiency services, and case management services to low-income households.  The evaluation assessed the efficiency and effectiveness of these programs through background research, needs assessment research, program administrator interviews, customer surveys, program database analysis, and analysis of the impacts of the program on affordability, bill payment, and collections actions and costs.

APPRISE is conducting an evaluation of Pepco’s Arrearage Management Pilot Program.  This program will provide arrearage forgiveness to low-income residential customers with arrearages of $300 or more.  The evaluation research will assess program implementation, the characteristics of customers who enroll in the program, and the impact of the program on arrearages, bill payment, and collections actions and collections costs.  The research will include stakeholder interviews; a participant survey; and analysis of program, billing, payment, arrearage, and collections data.

PG Energy implemented their Customer Assistance Program (CAP), called the PG Energy Partners Program (PGEPP), to assist eligible low-income residential customers to pay their gas bills and reduce arrearages. Participating households pay a monthly bill that equals a percentage of their income, and receive monthly arrearage forgiveness when bills are paid on time and in full. APPRISE evaluated this program to determine how to increase efficiency of administration and to measure the impacts of the program on affordability, bill payment, collections activity, and gas usage.

PGW’s Customer Responsibility Program provides low-income PGW customers with a reduced bill to increase energy affordability. Their other Universal Service Programs provide energy efficiency services, case management services, and emergency bill payment assistance.  The 2019 evaluation assessed the characteristics of program participants, payment compliance by program participants, and arrearage forgiveness received by program participants. The research estimated the impact of the program on affordability, payments, and collections actions and costs. Evaluation activities included interviews with program managers and staff, needs assessment, in-depth interviews with participating customers, and analysis of customer billing, payment, and collections data.

APPRISE is conducting a Process and Impact Evaluation of PPL Electric Utilities’ (PPL) Universal Services Programs. The programs provide bill payment assistance and energy efficiency services to PPL’s low-income customers. The 2020 evaluation includes a needs assessment, interviews with program managers and staff, interviews with service delivery agencies, surveys with participating customers, and analysis of the impact of the programs on energy affordability and bill payment practices.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has various programs to provide assistance to low-income and special needs households. These programs include rate discounts, home weatherization services, and bill assistance. SMUD contracted with APPRISE to conduct research on SMUD’s low-income assistance programs. The study included an assessment of the characteristics and needs of SMUD’s low-income population, a benchmark study of low-income assistance programs offered by other utilities and organizations, a review of SMUD’s current low-income programs, and recommendations for program assessment metrics and potential program modifications or additions.
T.W. Phillips established a customer assistance program called the Energy Help Fund (EHF) as part of its Universal Services Programs. The EHF provides low-income customers with rate discounts and arrearage forgiveness. APPRISE conducted a Process and Impact Evaluation of the program. The evaluation included administrative interviews, customer surveys, and analysis of payment and program data.
UGI has a Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to improve energy affordability for low-income customers. The program provides a reduced natural gas bill based on the customer’s poverty level and energy usage. APPRISE conducted a Process and Impact Evaluation of this program. The research included an assessment of the program design; review of the program costs and implementation; participant and non-participant feedback; and analysis of the impacts of the program on bill payment, arrearages, and collections costs.
Verizon’s Communications Lifeline Program provides discounted telephone service to low-income customers in New Jersey. NJ SHARES has been retained by Verizon to conduct outreach for the program by providing information about the program at workshops around the state. NJ SHARES is also assisting Verizon customers with near matches of Verizon account information data and eligible program participation data to enroll in the program. NJ SHARES is attempting to enroll these customers by sending out letters, fielding response phone calls, and calling customers who do not respond to the letters. APPRISE conducted an evaluation to assess the efforts that NJ SHARES has made toward increasing enrollment in this program. The evaluation included background research, database analysis, call center observations, customer interviews, successful enrollment analysis, program penetration research, and a detailed procedures review.