The Small Business Administration said on Friday that it has approved more than $1 billion in loans to Gulf Coast residents. It's only the third time that the SBA has approved as much in natural disaster relief loans; the previous times were during recovery efforts for the 1994 California Northridge earthquake and the 2004 Florida hurricanes.

The SBA and its critics have argued over whether the SBA is processing those loans fast enough.

SBA Administrator Hector Barreto said that his federal agency is matching the loan efforts in response to previous disasters. While it took the SBA 90 days to approve $1 billion in loans for Gulf Coast businesses and residents, it took 94 days to approve $1 billion in loans in the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and about 115 days to reach that mark after four hurricanes hit Florida last year, an SBA spokesperson said.

But the vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, Walter Isaacson, pointed out that the SBA has approved only about 4 percent of the loan applications at a hurricane relief forum last week in Washington. As of Nov. 29, the federal agency had approved 12,568 of the 282,728 applications received.

So while the SBA is starting to pump more loan money into the Gulf Coast, thousands of business owners anxiously await the much-needed help.