WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday put the cost of the Federal Reserve's emergency support program for the U.S. financial industry during the 2007-2009 crisis at about $21 billion.
It added that while the benefit of preventing a deeper meltdown was harder to gauge, it likely exceeded what it characterized as the program's "relatively small" cost.
The CBO performed the study at the request of the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Judd Gregg. It said it estimated a value for Fed emergency programs based on credit risks associated with Fed lending.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated a value for Fed emergency programs that propped up financial firms based on credit risks associated with Fed lending. It said it performed the study at the request of the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Judd Gregg.
Democrats hold majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Public anger over bailouts of the financial industry by the Fed and the federal government have fueled an anti-incumbent mood in looming congressional elections.
The CBO cautioned that its estimates of the economic subsidies are highly uncertain, and that it had no way of estimating the benefits of the Fed's actions.
"If the Federal Reserve had not strategically provided credit and enhanced liquidity, the financial crisis probably would have been deeper and more protracted and the damages to the rest of the economy more severe," the agency said.
The costliest Fed lending program during the crisis was the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, the CBO said. TALF was created to support consumer, small business and commercial real estate lending.
The agency said TALF exposes the Fed to the risk of defaults because it provides multi-year funding against risky asset-backed securities.
However, the CBO also projected that Fed remittances to the Treasury will jump to about $70 billion a year in 2010 and 2011 from about $34 billion as a result of the Fed's larger portfolio of riskier assets.
(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Donna Smith; Editing by Dan Grebler)