March 28, 2007 -- A year and a half after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the federal government has disbursed more than 100,000 disaster-recovery loans worth $4.8 billion to local home and business owners, the Small Business Administration reported this week.

The milestone represents three-quarters of the 120,000 loans approved by the agency in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, including $1.16 billion disbursed to local business owners alone, the SBA said.

The agency was widely criticized for its slow response to the Gulf Coast storms, with business owners, lawmakers, and others citing costly delays in its loan application process.

"Last summer we moved 1,300 staff and revamped their work flow, forming teams that integrated loan processing, decision making, and legal functions," Steve Preston, the agency's administrator, said in a statement. "The full disbursement of SBA disaster loan funds will go a long ways towards rebuilding the region, one homeowners and one business at a time."

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