When it comes to paying back the financial bailout loans issued by the government in the last half year, the interests of taxpayers and banks come into play.

For regulators, the loans were meant to strengthen the balance sheets of the ailing banking industry as a whole in the wake of a financial crisis. Struggling banks may have needed the funds more than healthier competitors, but ultimately, regulators decided to give loans to all major banks to help individual businesses avoid what some investors could consider weakness in accepting help.

The loans came with a price, however. In recent months, lawmakers have called banking representatives to testify in public hearings to give an account about how they have used the funds they were given. While banking institutions are already among the most heavily regulated businesses in the country, the unprecedented level of scrutiny from the public has led to vigorous debate about banking policies, most notably compensation and the need for regulatory reform.

Some major banks have already expressed the willingness to return the funds but they must do so in consultation with regulators. President Barack Obama, who held a summit with bankers at the White House last month, told banks to hold on to the money if they still needed it.

The government is in the process of going through the books of major institutions to determine their financial standing in the current economy and under a scenario which sees the economy declining further. That process will help determine if additional funds, or other actions, such as government takeover, are needed.