Wednesday, July 29, 2009

States' Stimulus Websites Graded

A Washington-based nonprofit has released a study ranking each state on the transparency and efficacy of its stimulus-tracking website. Good Jobs First says Pennsylvania’s site was the sixth-best in the nation with a 50 percent score; Maryland came out on top with 80 percent, while Illinois and Utah were tied for 50th place with zeros.

Lead author Philip Mattera says since states must report stimulus money usage to the federal government in any case, there’s no reason they can’t effectively share the information with their citizens. Much of that data required by the federal government, like figures on job creation and private construction contracts, was lacking from most states’ websites. He says a software company called ESRI has a very effective stimulus tracker template that they’ve offered to the states for free; however, few states have taken advantage of this.

Mattera says the study probably gave the sites more points than an average user would – researchers gave credit for information even if it was “buried” beneath odd file formats and hard-to-reach websites. Good Jobs First hasn’t notified state governments of their findings, but Mattera says other nonprofits from each state are bound to do so.

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