Obama plans $30 billion bailout for small business

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is setting aside $30 billion from the financial bailout fund for a range of initiatives designed to encourage lending to small businesses to aid the economic recovery.

With the financial system stabilized, the administration will focus most of its resources from the $700 billion fund on programs to revive the job market and keep people in their homes, according to an internal document obtained by the AP.

The document spells out how the Treasury Department plans to spend money from the fund before it expires in October 2010. It says $40 billion would go to new and existing programs to boost consumer and business lending.

Of that amount, $30 billion would back lending to small companies, according to a Treasury official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because no final decisions on the program have been made. An additional $21 billion would finish funding the administration's troubled mortgage relief program.

Only $6 billion will go directly to the banking system to shore up banks' balance sheets.

The accounting shows how fast and effective the bank bailout programs have been, even as efforts to aid other parts of the economy have languished. It underscores a criticism of the government's rescue effort: that it focused too much time and money on Wall Street while many Americans faced joblessness, tight credit and foreclosures.

The TARP program has been attacked as a bailout for Wall Street, allowing big banks to reap huge profits and lavish executives with bonuses. Banks have scrambled to repay their money so they can avoid government limits in areas such as executive pay.

President Barack Obama said in October that the administration would expand the effort to boost lending to small businesses. But officials have had trouble finalizing the details. The program has yet to be designed.

A range of options are being weighed, and key members of Congress are being consulted, said another Treasury official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. He said final decisions aren't expected until next year.

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