OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) — Billions of dollars in small business loans have already been dished out, just three days after the federal government launched its Paycheck Protection Program.

The goal is to protect small businesses by protecting their employees. CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli on Monday explained how it works.

Downtown Oak Park looks more like a ghost town, and perhaps no one knows that more than Veronica Ciobotaru, owner of Delia’s Kitchen.

“It’s been really tough, Ciobotaru said. “It feels like a bad dream.”

But the harsh reality is that since she was forced to close her doors by state order, Ciobotaru said she’s lost 90 percent of her business.

But while the doors are shut, the bills keep coming.

“We have rent, utilities, garbage, insurance, workman’s comp, phone, internet, alarm, ice machine,” Ciobotaru said.

Now, Ciobotaru she feels like her business is on ice. So she’s looking to the small business administration’s paycheck protection program for desperately needed help.

The $349 billion program offers loans of up to $10 million to businesses like Delia’s.

And if the companies use at least 75 percent of the money to retain employees and pay utilities, rent or mortgage interest the business owners won’t have to pay back the loans.

“If you do maintain that payroll and don’t lay off your employees for the eight weeks, then you’ll be eligible for the forgiveness,” said Jessica Mayle of the Small Business Association Illinois District.

And Mayle said if companies have already laid off employees, they can still use the loan money to hire them back.

“There will be an opportunity if you’ve already made layoffs to re-hire and use the funds for that and still be eligible for forgiveness,” she said.

Ciobotaru says the loan would help her pay her 17 employees and help Delia’s Kitchen survive.

“Because this is matter of life and death right now – absolutely for me and my employees,” she said.

Otherwise, Delia’s Kitchen may go out of business, Ciobotaru said.

“If May we be closed, probably would be shut down by June – possibly forever,” she said.

And how much interest has there been so far? We reached out to Bank of America, which said on Friday morning, they began taking applications.

By Monday morning, they’d processed 178,000 loan requests, totaling $32.9 billion.

For more information, connect with the Small Business Administration by clicking here.