Institute at UMass Amherst to Study Low-Income Heating Aid Program

AMHERST, Mass. - Researchers at the University of Massachusetts are helping the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) find individuals and families who are eligible to receive assistance paying their home heating bills, but aren''t aware of the program that provides the money.

Using computer models based on population statistics and actual participation in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the UMass-based Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research (MISER) will assist DHCD in predicting where to find state residents who qualify for the fuel aid, according to Stephen P. Coelen, MISER director. LIHEAP is federally funded and administered by DHCD. Previous research indicates that many eligible households are unaware of the program and therefore don''t take advantage of LIHEAP, Coelen says.

MISER is conducting the search by combining census figures, population estimates, and current population surveys to produce models of the likely number of households eligible for the assistance in 45 distinct regions in Massachusetts. The institute will also analyze DHCD data on households already participating in the program. Using the two sets of information together, MISER researchers will produce estimates of the percentage of the eligible population actually being served in each region, Coelen says.

Armed with the results, Coelen says, DHCD will be able to conduct more effective outreach efforts to individuals and families who qualify for LIHEAP funding. The DHCD has a $28,946 contract with MISER to do the work.

For information on the LIHEAP project, contact MISER at 413/545-3460 or by e-mail at miser@miser.umass.edu.

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