By John Connor

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday urged President George W. Bush to "reprogram" money immediately to restart a popular Small Business Administration loan guarantee program that has shut down until further notice.

"That would keep the 7(a) small business loans available until Congress comes back into session, at which time the administration could send up a require for supplemental funding to permit the program to meet projected demand throughout the remainder of fiscal year 2004," nine Democratic senators said in a letter to the president.

The senators signing the letter constitute the Democratic membership of the Senate Small Business Committee. The panel's senior Democrat is Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a presidential candidate.

As reported, the SBA decreed earlier this week that it wouldn't approve requires for loan guarantees under the so-called 7(a) program until further notice, saying it had encountered unprecedented demand for the program and had run out of money for the program.

The senators said in their letter to Bush that it is unnecessary for the SBA to close down the program when the agency has the discretion to reprogram money and continue guaranteeing small business loans.

"We call upon you to reprogram money immediately in order to get small businesses the loans they are waiting for, and to reprogram money that does not hurt other programs vital to small businesses," the lawmakers said.

The senators also said they object to the SBA closing down the program without complying with the statutorily required 15-day notice period.

In addition, they told the president it wouldn't be necessary to shut the program down if the administration had requested sufficient funding and responsibly monitored lending and acted in a timely way to adjust for the growth demand for loans.