WASHINGTON - In one of the largest stimulus awards to state housing agencies, the U.S. Treasury announced on Friday $284 million would go to California, bringing the nationwide total since May to $3.12 billion.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February included a payment in lieu of tax credits program for housing. Designed to support states in financing construction or renovation of affordable housing, the program will provide funding to states that apply through 2010.

So far, the biggest total, $580.1 million, has gone to Florida, followed by California. Altogether, 45 state housing authorities have applied for funds.

The federal government has turned to housing authorities to help with the real estate downturn that helped plunge the country into economic recession nearly two years ago. It has allowed them to take on more debt and extended their mortgage programs to include refinancings.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Kenneth Barry)