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News from the Reference Desk

Counting Campaign Dollars

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) administers and enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) – the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The FEC is an independent regulatory agency and is assigned to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.

You can retrieve detailed lists of contributors based on type (individual or organization) and search for summary financial information about candidate campaigns, party committees, and other political committees.

Among thousands of data tables in the Campaign Finance Disclosure Portal is the Table of Contribution Limits 2011-2012

Historical data is available from the FEC’s Public Records Office (800) 424-9530 (press 2 when prompted) or e-mail pubrec@fec.gov.

By Patricia Smolin on September 19, 2012 Categories: Economic, Elections, Finance, Voter Info

What’s FRED?

What is FRED? Short for Federal Reserve Economic Data, FRED is an online database consisting of more than 55,000 economic data time series from 45 national, international, public, and private sources.

FRED, created in 1990 and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, combines data with a tools that help us understand and display economic data.

The categories that can be searched include: Money, Banking & Finance; Population, Employment & Labor Markets; Production & Business Activity; Price Indexes; International and Regional Data.

By Patricia Smolin on September 13, 2012 Categories: Consumer, Economic, Finance

Interested in State Spending?

The Illinois comptroller’s office has launched a data website that gives users a daily snapshot of the state’s finances, employee salaries and contracts.
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka unveiled what her office calls “The Ledger” on Monday. She says it’s a user-friendly site that sets a new standard for transparency.
Topinka says much of the information on the new site was already available online, but it hasn’t been pulled together in one place or hasn’t been complete

By Patricia Smolin on April 19, 2012 Categories: Consumer, Finance, Voter Info

Illinois Tax Rate Finder

Interested in where your sales tax goes when you make a retail or food purchase?  The Illinois Tax Rate Finder tracks the breakdown of state, county, and municipal taxes for all cities and towns in Illinois. Additional definitions for what specific taxes mean are in their online glossary.

By julie collins on February 25, 2012 Categories: Business, Consumer, Finance

Social Security Benefit Statements Going Online

The SSA recently discontinued mailing annual estimates of benefits to future Social Security recipients.  In attempts to cut costs, this information will now be available on the SSA website, www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator – then click on "Estimate Your Retirement Benefits".

To receive information on earnings history or disability and survivor benefits, please call the agency at 1-800-772-1213.

The agency estimates svings of $60,000,000 annual by going online.  It plans to resume mailing paper statements to thos over 60 within the year.

By MPPL on June 14, 2011 Categories: Employment, Finance, Seniors

Value of the Dollar

Interested in how the U.S. dollar has changed in value over the centuries?  Check out MeasuringWorth to gauge how the dollar has changed since 1774 using a variety of benchmarks.

By MPPL on January 29, 2011 Categories: Consumer, Finance

College and Scholarship Sources

Need a good starting point to review college and financial aid information?  Here are a few suggested sources to consider.

Take a look at our Teen Zone: College & Career page and also our Web Resources by Subject on Research & Reference: Education & College Search.

We have an online version of  Scholarships, Fellowships and Loans: A Guide to Education-Related Financial Aid Programs for Students and Professionals accessible through the Gale Virtual Reference Center.  Please ask one of our Reference Librarians to assist you in locating any of these items.

The following titles are available in our College Reference area:

CT R 378.34 COL The College Board Scholarship Handbook

CT R 378.34 SCH Scholarship Almanac (Peterson’s/Thomson Learning)

CT R 378.34 COL Getting Financial Aid (College Board)

CT R 378.3 SCH The Scholarship Book

CT R 378.3 PET 2009 Scholarships, Grants and Prizes (Peterson’s)

 

These titles can also be checked out:

DVD 378.3409 FOU 411 on Finding College Funds

378.34 ULT The Ultimate Scholarship Book

378.34 SCH Scholarships (Kaplan)

378.3097 TAN 501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College

378.1616 COL College Essays That Made a Difference (Princeton Review)

 

Two additional recommended sites are FAFSA and fastweb.com.

By MPPL on December 28, 2010 Categories: Education, Finance

Standard Mileage Rates

WASHINGTON: 12/3/10 — The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2011 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2011, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 51 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs as determined by the same study. Independent contractor Runzheimer International conducted the study.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

Revenue Procedure 2010-51 contains additional details regarding the standard mileage rates.

By MPPL on December 6, 2010 Categories: Auto, Business, Finance

BrokerCheck

FINRA offers an online tool to help investors check the background of brokers and brokerage firms called BrokerCheck. You can obtain information about a broker's employment history, licensing status, criminal events, regulatory actions, investor complaints, and pending investigations.  You may also access this information by contacting FINRA at 800-289-9999.

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business with the U.S. public.

By MPPL on November 30, 2010 Categories: Finance

Northern Cook County Community Resource and Job Fair tomorrow 10/20/10

Tomorrow is the Northern Cook County Community Resource and Job Fair at the Forest View Educational Center from 11a-3p.  Meet with local employers and learn about assistance with: Healthcare, Employment, Food, Housing, Credit, Financial Planning, Utilities, Domestic Violence, and Other Supportive Community Services.

By MPPL on October 19, 2010 Categories: Employment, Finance, Health, Housing, Jobs, Rent