Irin Carmon: White House Issues New Fix For Contraceptive Coverage
The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act. The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.
BREAKING: The Obama Administration just announced new rules to ensure women have access to birth control coverage: on.msnbc.com/1toydbB
For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. “The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.
AP: Bank Of America Agrees To Nearly $17B Settlement
The government has reached a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Thursday. The deal calls for the bank, the second-largest in the U.S., to pay a $5 billion cash penalty, another $4.6 billion in remediation payments and provide about $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners. The settlement is by far the largest deal the Justice Department has reached with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown.
In the last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to a $13 billion settlement while Citigroup reached a separate $7 billion deal. At a news conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said the bank and its Countrywide and Merrill Lynch subsidiaries had “engaged in pervasive schemes to defraud financial institutions and other investors” by misrepresenting the soundness of mortgage-backed securities. The penalties, Holder said, go “far beyond the cost of doing business.”
Bloomberg: Housing Starts Rebound In U.S. As Inflation Eases
Home construction rebounded in July and the cost of living rose at a slower pace, showing a strengthening U.S. economy has yet to generate a sustained pickup in inflation. A 15.7 percent jump took housing starts to a 1.09 million annualized rate, the strongest since November, and halted a two-month slide, the Commerce Department said in Washington. The consumer price index increased 0.1 percent after rising 0.3 percent in June, the Labor Department also reported. An improving job market and cheaper borrowing costs are helping revive residential real estate, helping boost sales at companies such as Home Depot Inc. (HD) As inflation continues to run below the Federal Reserve’s target, it gives the central bank room to keep interest rates low well after the projected end of its bond-buying program in October.
The pickup in housing starts in the U.S. exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of 75 economists. The median projection called for 965,000, within a range of 898,000 to 1.03 million. The Commerce Department also revised June’s reading up to a 945,000 pace from a previously reported 893,000. The report also indicated the building industry will probably consolidate gains in coming months as permits for future projects advanced 8.1 percent to a 1.05 million pace, about in line with the current level of starts. The gain reflected the most applications for single-family dwellings since November.
Bloomberg: Job Market Tilts Toward U.S. Workers In Virtuous Cycle
The balance of power in the job market is shifting slowly toward employees from employers. Bob Funk sees it firsthand from his position as chief executive officer of staffing agency Express Employment Professionals. “We’re short of people in a number of cities,” he said. So he’s changing the focus of his $2.5 billion, Oklahoma City-based business. Instead of concentrating on finding jobs for those who want them, Express Employment is putting more effort into finding workers for companies that need them. “We’re back in the recruiting market again,” Funk said. The 74-year-old industry veteran isn’t the only one to notice the change. Americans who have been hunting for employment for more than six months
are finding they’re having better luck landing a job, while people who had given up looking are returning to the labor force to resume their search. Companies, meanwhile, are beefing up their in-house recruiting teams and increasingly using complicated computer algorithms to scour the Web for prospective job candidates. This is all good news for the economy, according to Nariman Behravesh, the Lexington, Massachusetts-based chief economist for IHS Inc. He said the U.S. has entered a “virtuous cycle” where job gains are leading to increased household expenditures, encouraging employers to hire more workers. Consumer spending rose in June by the most in three months, according to Commerce Department data published Aug. 1.