ProPublica reports on the estimated $30 billion left from the Trouble Asset Relief Program that was intended to help homeowners.
[...]Congress has mandated that the leftover money be used to pay down the debt.
Of the $45.6 billion in Trouble Asset Relief Program funds meant to aid homeowners, the most recent numbers available show that only about $2 billion has actually gone out the door.[...]
The programs have been marked by poor oversight and consistent under-enrollment. Homeowners have been forced to navigate an often bewildering maze at banks marked by slow communication, lost documents and other mistakes.
The amount of money spent is also low because the government pays out its incentive over a number of years. As of July, according to a Treasury spokeswoman, the government is on track to eventually spend $7.2 billion helping homeowners enrolled in its main loan modification program. That number doesn't factor in other homeowners who may enter the program before it ends in December 2012, but it does assume that all homeowners currently in the program will be able to continue making payments.[...]
According to the original TARP legislation, unused funds should be returned to the Treasury and used to reduce the debt. While Congress has the power to re-route those funds into new programs, Republicans seem unlikely to endorse such a plan.
Congress wouldn't have to reroute those funds, however, for them to actually be used to provide homeowner relief. Yes, unused funds have to be returned, but those funds don't have to remain unused. There are things that should have been done on the housing front, and some that still could.
Putting that money to work to actually help homeowners would have at least some stimulative effect, and do a lot more for the overall economy than putting it toward the deficit. It's not like that would make the Republicans not press for more cuts, anyway.