House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., is adding a provision to his massive regulatory reform package that would provide $3 billion in relief for unemployed homeowners.

The chairman is tapping the Troubled Asset Relief Program to fund "emergency" loans and advances. Assistance would be capped at $50,000 per homeowner. As expected, House Judiciary Committee Democrats have submitted an amendment that would allow bankruptcy judges to reduce or 'cram down' the principal amount of a homeowner's mortgage.

The House Rules Committee decides which amendments will be considered when debate begins on The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173). Meanwhile, a coalition of lender groups has succeeded in getting congressional sponsors to submit a risk retention amendment to the Rules Committee.

It requires regulators to create a category of low-risk mortgages that are exempt from risk retention. H.R. 4173 currently gives the regulators the discretion to set risk retention requirements as high as 5% on most mortgages.

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