Remember the first bailout bill? Why doesn’t Congress?

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Remember the first bailout bill? The one Congress called the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008? It drives me batty to hear all these politicians talk about not doing more for Main Street when we already have legislation meant to do just that.

In installment one of Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke Go to Congress, Sen. Bob Casey asked why not use this new bill as an opportunity to expand the Help for Homeowners provision in the July legislation. In our live blog, I pointed out how interesting it was that Congress doesn’t want to hand over $700 billion without first seeing if the Paulson plan works, and yet Casey is up for expanding an FHA program that doesn’t even go into effect until Oct. 1—and may or may not get broad support among the lenders necessary to make it work. The July legislation authorized $300 billion of new, fixed-rate mortgages for homeowners who owe more than their house is worth and can’t afford their current loan, but the Congressional Budget Office has said there is no way the FHA will need anywhere near that amount.

I’m thinking about this again because this morning the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced how it would be handing out the $3.9 billion in community development block grants that were also included in the July legislation. This money is going to states and municipalities so that they can buy up foreclosed and vacant properties, rehab them, and then resell them as affordable housing. The goal is to go into the worst-off neighborhoods (in terms of foreclosures, subprime mortgages, delinquency and default rates, and vacancies) and stop the vicious downward cycle of falling property values. Falling property values: where this all got started in the first place.

You can go here to see how much money each state is getting. The top four: Florida ($541 million), California ($530 million), Michigan ($264 million), Ohio ($258 million). Those figures include both the money going to the state and the money going to individual municipalities within the state.

But my broader point is this: We’ve already had our homeowner bailout bill. If you need more of a reminder about what else was in it—like tax breaks—read this.

Barbara!

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