updated 4/10/2009 3:31:31 PM ET 2009-04-10T19:31:31

The Treasury Department said Friday that the budget deficit soared to $192.3 billion in March, and is near $1 trillion just halfway through the budget year, as costs of the financial bailout and recession mount.

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Last month's deficit, a record for March, was significantly higher than the $150 billion that economists expected.

The deficit already totals $956.8 billion for the first six months of the budget year, also a record for that period. The Obama administration projects the deficit for the entire year will hit $1.75 trillion.

A deficit at that level would nearly quadruple the previous annual record of $454.8 billion set last year. The March deficit was four times the size of the imbalance in the same month last year.

Nearly $300 billion provided to the nation's banks and other companies to cope with the most severe financial crisis in seven decades has pushed government spending higher.

The Treasury report said that through the end of March, $293.4 billion had been provided to support companies through the $700 billion bailout fund Congress passed last October. That support has been provided primarily to banks, although insurance giant American International Group Inc. and auto companies General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC also have received assistance.

Besides the bailout fund, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac received $46 billion last month, bringing the total assistance provided to the mortgage finance companies to $59.8 billion since October. The government took control of both last September after they had suffered billions of dollars in losses on mortgage loans.

Through the first six months of the budget year that began Oct. 1, tax revenues have totaled $989.8 billion, down 13.6 percent from the year-ago period. The government's receipts have been reduced sharply by the recession, which is shaping up to be the longest of the post World War II period. The downturn began in December 2007.

Government outlays totaled $1.95 trillion through March, 33.4 percent higher than the year-ago period. Besides higher payments for the financial rescue, the government is paying more in such areas as unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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