The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than 120,000 Economic Injury Disaster loans totaling $7 billion to Garden State small business owners that have suffered revenue loss due to COVID-19.

SBA Regional Administrator Steve Bulger said in addition, 157,000 companies have accessed almost $18 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, meant to help employers keep workers on during shutdowns and the economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The loans, issued until August of this year, are forgivable if used as directed by federal guidance.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan works more like traditional business loans — with up to 30 years for repayment and relaxed regulations intended to help get the loans in more businesses' hands. Those loans remain available.

Bulger said in cooperation with the SBA's lenders and partners, New Jersey small businesses did a great job reaching out and accessing this money — and that they really needed the help.

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More than 3.5 million small business nationwide have received economic injury disaster loans since March, for a total of $192 billion, Bulger said. With the paycheck protection program, he said, that's more than 5 million loans totaling more than half a trillion dollars.

Bulger said when the COVID-19 shutdowns began in March, revenue stopped for small businesses, and they were forced to lay off employees. But Congress and President Donald Trump agreed on a plan to fund $1 trillion for the loan and assistance programs.

"We're getting the feedback now that a lot of these loans really helped out and enabled small business owners to pay their employees, keep the benefits going for their employees and families and keep their doors open," Bulger said. "So we know it's had a big impact"

The Small Business Administration identifies a small business as having 500 employees or less. Most businesses do qualify for the program, Bulger said.

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