Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced a program to allocate $20 billion to back a $200 billion Federal Reserve facility for consumer lending.

The money will be used for the asset-backed securities market to provide liquidity to financial institutions and loosen the tight market for automobile and student loans, credit cards and small business loans. Issuances in these categories amounted to roughly $240 billion in 2007 but declined precipitously in the third quarter of 2008 before coming to a halt in October, according to the Treasury Department.

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