DISPATCH: What the Debt Deal Means For States, Birth Control Covered Under New Health Plans, and Fighting Discrimination Against the Unemployed

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Uncertainty and Austerity: What the Debt Deal Means for the States

Tax and Budget Reform   *   Altaf Rahamatulla

On Tuesday, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 to increase the debt ceiling and avoid default, marking the end of a manufactured crisis  that saw the right wing engage in hostage-taking antics that threatened to push the nation toward economic catastrophe. The deal makes it even more apparent that there exists a pernicious dichotomy between Washington's priorities and the actual economic experience of average American families. While the wealth gap continues to widen, unemployment remains abysmally high, and states reel from historic revenue shortfalls, federal discourse over the past month instead centered on the depth and extent of programmatic cuts. And while the exact details are uncertain, it is clear that states stand to lose substantial federal funding for vital programs — such as education, public safety, and elderly care — in the coming years.

Decision Requires Insurers to Cover No-Cost Birth Control Under ACA

Health Care for All   *   Devin Boerm

This week, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a decision  stating that birth control will be part of the preventive health care benefits that must be covered under health insurance plans at no cost to consumers. The decision means no out-of-pocket costs, no cost sharing, and no deductible for women who have little to no current access to birth control. The new requirement is part of a comprehensive set of guidelines for women’s preventive care released this week by HHS as part the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover certain preventive services.

Legislation to Protect Unemployed From Job Discrimination Introduced

Unemployment & Retraining   *   Ben Secord

Earlier this week, a bill to end employer discrimination against unemployed job seekers was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), and Gillibrand (D-NY). The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, also introduced  last month in the House of Representatives, would prohibit employers and recruiting firms from refusing to consider potential hires solely because they are out of work or from including language in a job posting that discourages individuals from applying based on their employment status. As the national unemployment crisis deepens, and as long-term unemployment rates stubbornly remain at record levels, this Congressional legislation mirrors similar legislative efforts underway in states that seek to ensure that such discrimination does not aid in driving millions to permanently leave the workforce.

Quote Of The Week

“Now it is critical that we turn towards an equally pressing crisis: the sky-high unemployment rates that persist across the country.”

– U.S. Conference of Mayors President and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement on the debt deal, urging policymakers to pivot immediately to the urgent jobs crisis facing cities across the nation.

Steps Forward

AL: Federal Government Files Lawsuit Against Alabama Immigration Law

CO: Groups back restoration of state tax rates to 1990s levels to fund Education

MO: Missouri Reps Ask DOJ to Review Voter Photo ID Laws

Steps Back

CA: Budget deal could jeopardize high-speed rail, clean-water programs

IA: Gov. Branstad vetoes tax breaks for the poor

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Research Roundup: Rollbacks to UI Insurance, Racial Wealth Gap Grows and Privatization in Ohio

In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports by the National Employment Law Project on states enacting unprecedented rollbacks in their unemployment insurance programs, the Roosevelt Institute on why women have suffered heavily disproportionate job losses since the recession officially ended in 2009, the Pew Research Center on the alarming and growing wealth gap between black, white, and Latino households, the Alliance for a Just Society on the stories of some of the real people in communities of color who rely on Medicaid for the health security of their families, and Policy Matters Ohio assesses the impact of the massive privatization authorized by the new Ohio state budget.

Unraveling the Unemployment Insurance Lifeline: Responding to Insolvency, States Begin Reducing Benefits and Restricting Eligibility in 2011 - The National Employment Law Project reports that eleven states enacted unprecedented rollbacks in their unemployment insurance (UI) programs. In contrast, Colorado and Rhode Island moved to protect the solvency of UI trust funds by raising employer contribution rates. The report’s authors caution against further state rollbacks next year, particularly if last year’s temporary federal extension of UI benefits fails to be renewed at the end of the year.

Women Laid Off, Workers Sped Up: Support Staff Hold a Clue to the Gendered Recovery - This report by the Roosevelt Institute aims to discover why, since the recession officially ended in 2009, men have gained 805,000 jobs while women have lost 281,000. By analyzing available data by occupation rather than industry, the study finds that women have lost an “overwhelming number of jobs” in office and administrative support occupations — with one possible explanation being that as companies lay off employees, they are focusing layoffs on support staff while asking other employees to take on more work. The authors conclude that short-term efforts at robust job creation are necessary to help reverse this trend.

Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics - This Pew Research Center analysis indicates that the median wealth of white households is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Latino households, marking the greatest wealth gap between these groups since the government began publishing this data 25 years ago. Pew notes that “plummeting house values were the principal cause of the recent erosion in household wealth among all groups, with Hispanics hit hardest by the meltdown in the housing market.”

Medicaid Makes a Difference: Protecting Medicaid, Advancing Racial Equity - This report by the Alliance for a Just Society and 14 members of its Health Rights Organizing Project, a network of grassroots organizations across the country committed to the fight for health equity, documents the stories of some of the real people in communities of color who rely on Medicaid for the health security of their families. With more than 50 million covered by Medicaid — more than half being people of color — and with cuts to the program remaining a possibility after the debt deal reached by Congress this week, these personal and real stories are powerful reminders of how such cuts would affect the lives of millions.

The Great Ohio Sell-Off - Policy Matters Ohio assesses the impact of the massive privatization authorized by the new state budget, which calls for selling billions of dollars of public assets, including the Ohio Turnpike, six prisons, and the liquor distribution business. The authors of the analysis find, “little evidence has been put forward that the public will benefit from this slew of privatization moves. In some instances, we may be giving away public assets, which taxpayers have spent considerable sums to build, for less than they are worth. Based on developments elsewhere, privatization also could limit our ability to make decisions about public infrastructure and deliver good service.”

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The Stateside Dispatch is edited by:

Charles Monaco, Press and New Media Specialist

Contributors to the Dispatch include:

Michael Berman, Legal Intern
Devin Boerm, Health Policy Specialist
Fabiola Carrión, Broadband and Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Cristina Francisco-McGuire, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Tim Judson, Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax and Budget Policy Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Ben Secord, Outreach Specialist

Please send us an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms,or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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