The government will begin doling out $125 billion to nine major banks this week as part of its effort to contain a growing financial crisis, a top Treasury official said Monday.

Assistant Treasury Secretary David Nason said the deals with the nine banks were signed Sunday night and the government will make the stock purchases this week. The deals are designed to bolster the banks' balance sheets so they will begin more normal lending.

The action will mark the first deployment of resources from the government's $700 billion financial rescue package passed by Congress on Oct. 3.

The bailout package has undergone a major change in emphasis since it was passed by Congress. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson decided to use $250 billion of the $700 billion to make direct purchases of bank stock, partially nationalizing the country's banking system, as a way to get money into the financial system more quickly.

As the rescue program wended its way through Congress, the administration emphasized that the money would be used to purchase bad assets of banks. That effort has yet to get started although the administration expects to use $100 billion to purchase bad assets in coming months.

The deployment of the first $125 billion to the major banks had been delayed while the government and the banks worked out the details for the purchases.

Nason, a key architect of the rescue plan, said in an interview Monday on CNBC that those agreements had been signed late Sunday night.

Treasury is also starting to give approval to major regional banks with the goal of getting another $125 billion in stock purchases made by the end of this year.

One of those banks, KeyCorp, said Monday it would issue stock for a $2.5 billion infusion of capital from the government.