Economic Daily Outlook




Treasury Faulted in Effort to Relieve Homeowners

A fund to support homeowners in the communities hit hardest by the collapse of the housing bubble has disbursed just 3 percent of its budget and aided only 30,640 homeowners in the two years since its creation, according to a report released on Thursday by a federal watchdog office.

The Hardest Hit Fund, which was created in the spring of 2010, grants money to state housing finance agencies for efforts to help families that are facing foreclosure. It has “experienced significant delay” because of “a lack of comprehensive planning” by the Treasury Department and limited participation by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the large mortgage servicers, said the report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.



US SEC: companies already using new IPO on-ramp

Two companies have rushed to take advantage of a new law signed by President Barack Obama last week that aims to help streamline the initial public offering process by scaling back certain regulatory requirements.

Officials at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Wednesday that the agency has already received two confidential draft registration statements.

Credit Union Business Lending Bill Headed for Senate Showdown

With the Senate nearing a vote on a bill to allow credit unions to offer more business loans, the lobbying war between banks and their long-time enemies is heating up.

Although banks were able to successfully block the bill’s inclusion in the recently-enacted JOBS Act, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised it will come up for a vote on the Senate floor soon.



OPINION: ACOs, accountable care to flourish no matter what Supreme Court says on Obama health law

No matter what happens to President Obama’s health care law sitting before the Supreme Court, fee-for-service medicine may still morph into a new model of health care delivery his administration is pushing that rewards doctors and hospitals for working together to improve quality.

A key part of the Affordable Care Act launched this spring with the first groups of medical-care providers forming Accountable Care Organizations across the country. These so-called ACOs began contracting this month with the Medicare program to be paid for caring for a population of seniors.


White House Press Release on Primary Care Workforce Needs



Analysts: Gas prices may have peaked

Gasoline prices, which have vexed President Obama politically in recent months, may have reached their peak, according to energy analysts.

Prices at the pump reached nearly $3.94 last Friday, the highest point this year, according to AAA. But prices have decreased slightly over the last five days, reversing increases that began in December of last year.

Analysts say prices could continue to decline.



Feds Back Off on Easing Special Ed. Funding Restriction

The U.S. Department of Education this month took back an offer it made to school districts last summer that would have let them cut special education spending permanently, with only a one-time penalty, and for reasons other than existing exemptions in federal disability education law.

The federal “maintenance of effort” clause has been built into special education spending rules to buffer students with disabilities from changes in services triggered by the ups and downs of public spending and politics. Under that clause, states and districts must increase spending or keep it level from year to year. Violating the rules can lead to the loss of federal dollars awarded to states under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.



Few U.S. Options as North Korea Readies Missile Launching

With North Korea poised to launch a long-range missile despite a widespread international protest, the Obama administration is trying to play down the propaganda value for North Korea’s leaders and head off criticism of its abortive diplomatic opening to Pyongyang in late February.

The White House is readying a blunt response to a launching by North Korea, which will include, as it has warned, the suspension of a food aid agreement announced just six weeks ago, a senior official said Wednesday. The United States also plans to rally worldwide condemnation of the launching, which Pyongyang insists is intended to put a satellite into orbit, but which Washington says would be a breach of North Korea’s international obligations.

Clinton Overrules Republican Lawmaker’s Hold on Palestinian Aid

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is allowing U.S. funds to flow to the West Bank and Gaza despite a hold by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a rare display of executive-branch authority that angered the key lawmaker concerned about protecting her congressional oversight role.

A State Department official said that a letter was delivered on Tuesday to key members of Congress informing them of Clinton’s decision to move forward with the $147 million package of the fiscal year 2011 economic support funds for the Palestinian people, despite Ros-Lehtinen’s hold. Administrations generally do not disburse funding over the objections of lawmakers on relevant committees.