As home and business owners throughout Florida and the Southwestern U.S. pull things together for a fourth time this hurricane season, the Small Business Administration is offering a few million rays of hope.

In the weeks since hurricane Charley touched off a string of unprecedented weather-related disasters, the SBA has mobilized over 822 employees to staff disaster recovery centers and help disperse emergency loans to hard hit business owners in 10 states including Puerto Rico. To date, the SBA has approved more than 3,500 disaster loans worth about $103.6 million.

"The SBA is working hard to get the disaster loan funds out quickly to those who suffered losses after these devastating storms," said SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto. The agency, he added, "will stay in Florida and all the other disaster areas as long as it takes to support residents and business owners as they rebuild their lives."

Under the SBA's disaster loan program, homeowners are eligible for up to $200,000 in low-interest loans, while businesses and non-profit organizations can apply for up to $1.5 million to help repair damage to real estate, machinery, equipment and inventory.

Disaster victims must first call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to apply for all forms of federal recovery assistance.

For more information about SBA's disaster assistance program, visit: