Obama housing program gives $600 million to five states

The new program comes on the heels of criticism from House and Senate lawmakers from states left out of a similar $1.5 billion program that helped a different group of five states.

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Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), along with a bipartisan group of Ohio House members, wrote to the administration or voiced their concerns that the earlier program neglected their states' large declines in home prices and mounting foreclosures.

Under the new, $600 million program, Ohio and Rhode Island will receive $172 million and $43 million, respectively. The other states to win aid are North Carolina ($159 million), South Carolina ($138 million) and Oregon ($88 million).

“The basic point is that we’re trying to provide some extra help to some particularly hard-hit communities, hard hit based on the concentration of unemployment,” Michael Barr, assistant Treasury secretary, said Monday.

The administration ranked states by the share of their population living in counties with high levels of unemployment, which is often associated with tough housing conditions. The new program benefits the five states that have the largest share of their populations living in counties that saw an average unemployment rate of at least 12 percent during 2009.

States that benefited from the first program — California, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona and Florida — were not eligible for the new effort.

The money in both programs comes from the $700 billion financial bailout program passed by Congress in 2008.

The money is intended to support new programs run by state housing finance agencies. The money could go toward mortgage modifications and short sales, among other programs.