UCLA Researchers Find Liberty Hill’s emPOWER Program Helps Los Angeles Residents Realize Environmental & Financial Benefits
Low-income households in California face larger energy, transportation and water affordability burdens than other populations. emPOWER is a coordinated L.A. County-wide outreach program with a mission to overcome barriers to sustainable energy usage commonly experienced in low-income and working class communities of color.
The #emPOWERoutreach program was created to tackle the problem of access across the county and connect low-income residents with a suite of environment-related financial assistance programs, such as clean, affordable energy and transportation rebates, utility bill savings, zero-emission vehicle incentives and energy efficiency home upgrades.
Liberty Hill has been working with a variety of community-based organization partners with historic ties to the communities of South L.A., Boyle Heights, East L.A., Pomona, El Monte, Commerce, Bell, Bell Gardens, South Gate, Pacoima, West and North Long Beach, and Inglewood to expand access to, and encourage the use of these available energy rebates, upgrades and other incentives that can help residents save up to thousands of dollars per year.
Recently, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) released an evaluation report of the first year of the campaign, including its equity implications, the effectiveness of its outreach and areas for growth.
“The pilot stage’s reach to the most environmentally-disadvantaged communities in the region was undeniably a success,” said Gregory Pierce, associate director of the center and lead author of the program evaluation titled, “emPOWER: A Scalable Model for Improving Community Access to Environmental Benefit Programs in California.” The report was co-authored by Rachel Connolly, a graduate student researcher at the Luskin Center for Innovation.
The platform was launched to realize opportunities via community relationships. Iretha Warunsly, a volunteer with one of the CBOs, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy (SCOPE), explains the importance of this neighborhood engagement in South Los Angeles.
“When our folks have limited income, that reduction [in cost] is everything," says Lopez. “That reduction is the ability to breathe; it can mean everything for the trajectory of our families.”