By Amy Lester, Oklahoma Impact Team

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Some small businesses that struggled to get loans during the credit crunch are now finally finding some relief thanks to the federal stimulus package.

"We are providing a little more security and confidence for both borrowers and lenders that the market is strong," said Darla Booker, spokesperson for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Oklahoma District.

The stimulus bill allowed the SBA to raise its loan guarantee to 90 percent or higher. That means, if a business cannot make its payments, the government will pick up the tab and pay back 90 percent of the loan to the bank. SBA also waived its fees, which depending on the loan size, can run in the thousands of dollars.

"There's a lot of people out there that wouldn't have been able to survive had these changes not been put in place," Booker said.

Since the Recovery Act became law in February, the SBA has approved nearly 1,000 loans in Oklahoma totaling more than $110 million.

"I think it's a great idea, we all need a little help sometimes," said Joanne Wooder, Olde World Finishes.

Wooder's company received a $15,000 loan, guaranteed by SBA. She said had trouble securing the loan on her own without the help of SBA.

"I couldn't even get people to call me back, so I guess I'm too small, I don't know," Wooder said.

The loan money will go toward training, marketing and advertising. The company adds its unique touch to homes with paint and plaster work, across the metro.

"It means that we can continue training and be more versatile which will, hopefully, will help us improve our market share of this area," Wooder said.

Wooder's not the only Oklahoma company that qualified for a loan.

"As far as I know, the SBA hasn't spent any money on my loan and hopefully they're not going to have to," said Ron Ponder, owner of Thunderbird Chapel.

Ponder runs a wedding chapel in Norman. He received a loan for $511,600. He'll use the money to open another chapel in Texas, which he believes will truly stimulate the economy.

"We're going to build this place, we're going to hire 20 part time employees, the money's going to churn through the economy and that's going to stimulate things," said Ponder.

Ponder said it took a lot of paperwork to qualify for the loan, but he's happy the government is taking extra steps before backing loans.

"I'm all for protecting our money, your money, my money you know the public's money as far as taxpayer's dollars," Ponder said.

While the SBA does have to pay the banks on some loans, it happens less than you may think. The SBA default rate is 5 percent, that's up from the pre-recession figure of 3 percent. The agency spokesperson insists that's a small amount when you consider billions of dollars are going out to companies across the country.

"The taxpayers don't have to worry that we're making loans to companies that could potentially fail because that's not the case," Booker said.

The SBA will keep backing loans at 90 percent or higher until the end of December or until the money runs out.

However, small businesses could get another boost, thanks to federal stimulus dollars.

The Small Business Administration is extending its special loan program. Starting the second week of March, SBA will waive fees and give a higher guarantee to banks handing out SBA loans. The move should provide nearly $2 billion in lending to small businesses across the country.