Unemployed homeowners in 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia will soon be eligible for government help to avert foreclosure under a $2 billion program announced on Wednesday.

The Treasury Department said it would expand an existing $2.1 billion program aimed at preventing foreclosures in states hard-hit by slumping home prices or high unemployment by an additional $2 billion. It also said it was broadening the geographic areas eligible to receive the funds.

The funds are part of a broader $50 billion housing assistance program, most of which has not been spent. No new money has been allocated.

The existing Hardest Hit Fund was composed of $1.5 billion aimed at five states with steep home price declines and another $600 million aimed at five separate states with high unemployment.

Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., will be eligible for the funds announced Wednesday.

Nine of those areas were already eligible for aid under one or the other of the existing targeted programs.

We remain committed to helping struggling homeowners and this program will provide additional assistance to states hardest hit by unemployment, said Herb Allison, Treasury assistant secretary for financial stability.

(Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; editing by Philip Barbara)