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Research Roundup: End of an ARRA, Reforming the Credit Reporting Industry and Internet for the Homeless

In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports from the Center for an Urban Future on what the recovery act brought to economies in cities like New York, Demos on the urgent need to reform the nation’s credit reporting industry, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs on the needs and challenges of creating an Internet access and education center run by and for homeless and low-income populations in Minnesota, and the American Library Association evaluating Internet connectivity in public libraries.

End of an ARRA – The 2009 federal stimulus brought a huge infusion of funds to New York City for job training and workforce development, but the money is now running out. This report from the Center for an Urban Future looks at how the funds were spent and what the end of this funding stream means at a time when countless New Yorkers are still out of work.

Discrediting America: The Urgent Need To Reform The Nation's Credit Reporting Industry – With credit reports and scores have a direct and growing impact on Americans’ economic security and opportunity, this report by Demos examines troubling shortcomings in the for-profit credit reporting industry, and recommends common sense steps to reform the credit reporting system, finding that today’s credit reporting system falls short on basic goals of fairness and accuracy.

Envisioning an Internet Center for Homeless Individuals: One Group’s Quest to Reduce the Digital Divide – This report from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs details the needs and challenges of creating an Internet access and education center run by and for homeless and low-income populations. Through interviews with homeless individuals in the Twin Cities area and a survey of existing Internet access points, the report found that most of these individuals access the web through public libraries and many are lacking even the most basic digital literacy skills. Creating a convenient, safe welcoming environment as well as targeted education is key to helping the homeless stay connected with the world, become civically engaged, and learn how to find work, housing, and other resources online.

Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2010-2011 – Continuing an ongoing evaluation of Internet connectivity in public libraries that began in 1994, the American Library Association found that demand for Internet services in libraries is increasing exponentially. Although 99.3% of public libraries provide free public Internet access and 87% provide technology education as well, 76% are short on computers to meet demand and 45% complained of slow connection speeds, citing costs, space, and insufficient infrastructure as major obstacles. Due to budget cuts and the slowed economy, more and more libraries decreased their open hours, especially in urban areas, and most expect to further cut services. Even so, libraries are still able to perform what they consider one of their most important functions by offering access to job databases, civil service exam resources, and assistance with job applications. Next year’s report is expected to show improvements as a result of the $7.2 billion in ARRA funding awarded in 2010.