LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A nonprofit organization is making $5 million in loans and other financial assistance available to businesses affected by the ongoing natural gas leak near Porter Ranch and resulting exodus of residents, Councilman Mitch Englander said today

The Valley Economic Development Center will offer loans ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 to businesses that have lost revenue due to the gas leak at the nearby Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility and need help paying their bills.

The facility’s operator, Southern California Gas Co., estimates it may take until the end of February or March to fix the leak, which was discovered on Oct. 23. Since that time, thousands of families have relocated out of the area.

Englander said some businesses have been able to rely on reserves to help them through the first month or two, “but it’s just now catching up with them.”

“The bills are coming, but the customers aren’t,” he said.

The nonprofit presented a $35,000 check today to one affected business, Starter Set Preschool and Child Development Center, which lost 17 of its students during the gas leak, according to VEDC Director of Marketing Lisa Winkle.

“We’re there to help small businesses in the area that have been impacted by this disaster,” Winkle said.

The $5 million being offered includes micro-loans, which are immediately available, as well as small business loans between $50,000 and $250,000, which take longer to give out.

VEDC was formed in 1976 and has offered financial assistance to small businesses amid various disasters, including the 1994 Northridge earthquake.