ST. PAUL — Minnesota employers affected by the coronavirus pandemic sought roughly $11.2 billion in federal emergency loans to stay afloat, according to figures released Monday, July 6, by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Approximately 98,000 businesses in the state, from healthcare companies to professional service providers, were approved to borrow through the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

Enacted in April as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES, the $669-billion program is credited with helping employers to cover basic expenses like payroll at a time when social distancing measures and public health concerns are disrupting the way they do business.

"More than 726,000 small businesses in the Great Lakes Region have been approved for more than $87 billion in PPP funds, preserving critical jobs and institutions across the six states," SBA regional administrator Robb Scott said in a statement, referring to the six-state district of which Minnesota is a part. "While the pandemic has greatly impacted our economy, in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, small businesses have shown they are resilient and stronger."

Businesses that applied for PPP loans generally had to employ fewer than 500 people per location to qualify for the program. Loans can be forgiven provided that a borrower uses 60% to cover wages.

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Nationwide, roughly 86.5% of loans approved for the program were for less than $150,000. Data released Monday did not include the names of businesses that borrowed less than that amount, though businesses that borrowed more than that are named in separate documents.

Federal officials were at first hesitant to release borrower information, citing privacy concerns, but relented under pressure from lawmakers and transparency advocates. Monday's information release, however, did not omit approved loans that borrowers later declined to take.

In a statement, Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin said "the release of loan data strikes the appropriate balance of providing the American people with transparency, while protecting sensitive payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors."

The program proved to be immensely popular, with applicants quickly depleting the initial $349 billion that Congress appropriated for it barely two weeks after launch. But it isn't without its detractors.

It took weeks for the local lending institutions administering PPP loans to respond to businesses that applied for them in some instances. Early on, some business owners had their applications rejected for seemingly disparate reasons.

Approximately $130 billion in loans are still available through the program, for which Congress again extended the application period last week. That extension was partly the work of Rep. Angie Craig, who sponsored the bill calling for it that President Donald Trump signed into law on Saturday, July 4.

The freshman lawmaker authored another bill that would allow select businesses to apply for a second PPP loan.

"Our communities deserve our commitment that their best interests are what is driving our legislation," Craig, D-Minn., said in a statement issued Monday.