NEW YORK (AP) -- Many small business owners are still finding it hard to get loans and credit, and that's creating problems for their companies, according to a survey released Monday by the American Sustainable Business Council.

Forty-five percent of the 515 owners who took part in the advocacy group's survey said access to loans and credit at reasonable rates is a problem for their businesses. Access to loans was most difficult in the Northeast, where 53 percent of the owners said it was a problem. In the West, 49 percent called it a problem, followed by 44 percent in the South and 37 percent in the Midwest.

The survey's findings were in line with other surveys that have shown many small business owners finding it hard to get credit nearly five years after the banking crisis.

Most of the survey participants, 91 percent, said they support allowing community banks, cooperatives and credit unions to compete more actively with commercial banks to help meet the needs of small businesses. Changes in federal law would be required for small financial institutions to increase their small business lending.

The survey included small businesses owners with two to 99 employees. Sixty-two percent of the owners that took part had fewer than 10 employees.

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