States riddled with foreclosures more than doubled the number of homeowners receiving aid through the Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund in the past several months, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report Thursday. 

The Treasury set up the program to distribute $7.6 billion in funds to agencies in 19 states known as the "hardest hit states" because of their battles with local foreclosures.

The agencies, in turn, were given the authority to distribute the funds to help distressed homeowners stave off foreclosure.

Despite recent improvements, SIGTARP noted in its latest progress report that it's still bothered by an "overall lack of homeowners assisted under the program."

But, local agencies distributing the funds note a reoccurring trend where timelines are speeding up and numbers are improving.

SIGTARP figures have Georgia, one of the hardest hit states, going from 524 aided homeowners at the time of the April audit report to a total of 1,243 homeowners assisted by the fund.

Saralyn Stafford with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs says the number of borrowers aided is actually much higher, increasing 82% from April to now. To date, she says $45.6 million in funds have been committed in the state with a total of 2,066 borrowers receiving aid through the program since its launch.

"My overall response on the issue of the speed at which these funds are being deployed is that it's a very complicated set of circumstances," Stafford said. "Number one, for the first year, we had to develop the guidelines and meet the needs of both the Treasury and the state of Georgia."

The Treasury, which initially disputed some of the SIGTARP findings in an audit released in April, contends that state agencies are making rapid progress in distributing aid to homeowners.

"Every state is showing tremendous progress and remains singularly focused on getting assistance out to homeowners," said Andrea Risotto with the Treasury. "To date, more than 77,000 families have been assisted by the program with another 30,000 in progress."

Risotto says $1.1 billion has been spent so far, along with $188 million in administration costs.

While SIGTARP's report shows the oversight group still questioning the speed of the programs' relief efforts, it does acknowledge improvements in other hardest hit states, like New Jersey, where the program went from helping a total of 54 people in December of 2011 to 498 homeowners in the latest SIGTARP report.

Arizona's list of aided borrowers rose from only 325 homeowners at the time of the original SIGTARP audit to 703 homeowners in June.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com