Year of the bailouts: It’s all about timing

Every day brings more news about the government’s efforts to fix the economy. Here is how the plans are taking shape.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Now the clock is really ticking for Henry Paulson.

The Treasury secretary has just $20 billion of unallocated money from the $350 billion Congress put under his charge for the financial bailout package. With Paulson hinting that the remaining $350 billion of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) would be saved for the next administration, time is of the essence.

Treasury has committed the first pile of money — $250 billion to capital injections for financial institutions. So far, it has sent out $158.6 billion to banks, or 63% of the total allotment. President Bush asked for another $100 billion in October, 80% of which has already been allocated.

In that second batch of funds, the government gave troubled insurer AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) $40 billion and lent Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) $20 billion (on top of the $25 billion it received from the first bailout batch). Then, Tuesday, Treasury dedicated another $20 billion to cover any losses that the Federal Reserve might suffer as a part of a new consumer loan bailout.

That new bailout, announced Tuesday, will be financed by a different pile of funding – most likely from the printing of more money. The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department said they will allocate $800 billion more to go to holders of loans backed by consumer debt in an attempt to jumpstart lending by the nation’s banks for mortgages, credit card purchases and cars.

And that may not be the last new bailout measure. There’s a growing chorus of voices outside of Treasury to spread bailout money around.

The recent struggles of GM (GM, Fortune 500), Ford (F, Fortune 500) and Chrysler have built momentum for a bailout of the U.S. auto industry. Automakers have until Dec. 2 to submit proposals for how they would use – and pay back – $25 billion of government funding. The Bush administration has said it does not want a Detroit bailout to come from TARP funds.

Some government officials like FDIC Chair Sheila Bair have called for TARP money to be used to guarantee mortgages backed by private lenders to encourage them to restructure loans to troubled homeowners. The Bush administration’s new program to modify mortgages announced earlier in November stopped short of providing direct government financial help.

The Treasury would have to go back to Congress for the remaining $350 billion. Paulson has repeatedly said there is no “timeline” for asking lawmakers for that authority, which many economists believe means that will be left for President-elect Barack Obama’s nominated Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner.

Here is how the government has thus far invested billions of dollars to rescue banks, companies, consumers and their homes.

SAVING WALL STREET

The government has taken these steps to aid financial institutions.

Term-auction facility: $1.6 trillion in loans to banks so far in exchange for otherwise unwanted collateral. The Fed increased its monthly auction limit to $300 billion in October, up from $20 billion when the Fed began the program.

Dollar swap lines: Unlimited dollars to 13 foreign central banks to provide liquidity to foreign financial institutions. The Fed lifted its cap after raising it to $620 billion in October from $24 billion in December.

Bear Stearns: $29 billion in a special lending facility to guarantee potential losses on its portfolio. With the lending facility, JPMorgan was able to step in to save Bear from bankruptcy.

Lending to banks: $70 billion lent on average every day to investment banks, after facility opened to non-commercial banks for first time in March. $92 billion a day to commercial banks.

Cash injections: $250 billion allocated to banks in exchange for equity stake in the financial institutions in the form of senior preferred shares.

Citigroup: $300 billion in troubled asset guarantees and $45 billion in cash-injections to prevent fourth-largest bank from failing.

Fed rate cuts: Down to 1% in October 2008, from 5.25% in September 2007.

SAVING MAIN STREET

Consumers are benefiting from the government’s actions in recent months.

Stimulus checks: $100 billion in stimulus checks made their way to 140 million tax filers to boost consumer spending and help grow the economy.

Unemployment benefits: $8 billion toward an expansion of unemployment benefits, to 39 weeks from 26 weeks. Some states must now offer 39-week benefits after an extension act was passed in November.

Bank takeovers: $15.5 billion drawn down so far from the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund after 22 bank failures in 2008. more

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