Report here. Excerpt:
One of Jiménez’s biggest undertakings to date is the Financial Distress Research Project, an initiative she supervises with James Greiner and Lois Lupica, law professors at Harvard and the University of Maine law schools respectively. The goal of the enterprise – a signature project of the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard – is to help low- and moderate-income individuals successfully deal with the legal consequences of debt if they become entangled in the system. In the next few weeks, Connecticut Legal Services will begin implementing the project, which employs a randomized design built around a self-help kit that provides information on, among other things, how to litigate a collection action; pull, review, and correct errors in a credit report; and negotiate with creditors.
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In a forthcoming article in the Indiana Law Journal, “Self-Help, Reimagined,” Jiménez, Greiner, and Lupica explain the rationale behind that approach. Unlike other self-help material, theirs considers the many psychological and cognitive barriers that prevent low- to moderate-income individuals from successfully making use of other self-help materials.
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Jiménez and her team are using state court records to identify individuals being sued in debt collection. Those that meet income and asset eligibility criteria will be put in one of four groups receiving varying degrees of self-help and professional support. The project will follow participants over three years to determine if the self-help kits have had a positive impact on their financial health. Jiménez and her partners will track credit score attributes in each of three years before the project, survey study participants when they enter the project, and for each of the three years after entering the project will measure their overall financial well-being, perceived financial stress levels, and other wellness indicators.