The new COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress this week includes a provision authored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, addressing the fact that the original CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program made many newspapers and TV and radio stations ineligible for funding.
“During this pandemic, local newspapers and broadcasters must continue to communicate vital COVID health data, including lifesaving information about public health guidance, the vaccines, and vaccine distribution,” said Senator Cantwell. “Local news is essential. It makes our communities — and our country — stronger by asking important questions, providing accurate facts, and countering misinformation and disinformation. This bill will make more newspapers, TV and radio stations, and public broadcasters eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program so local reporters can keep us informed.”
The bill means more than 100 newspapers and broadcasting stations in Washington will be newly eligible for more PPP funding.
Cantwell’s provision provides a fix to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) affiliation rule, which previously prevented local news outlets that were owned by larger parent companies from accessing PPP funding, according to a news release from Cantwell’s Office.
The Chronicle is a family-owned newspaper and was eligible for PPP funding under the original rules.
The provision would make newspapers and local radio and TV stations that produce and distribute local news and emergency information eligible for PPP funds even if owned by a larger entity as long as the individual radio or TV station has no more than 500 employees or the individual newspaper has 1,000 or fewer employees.
“Local information is critical for our rural listeners, especially during a crisis. We are grateful for continued support for journalists and media outlets at NWPB because it allows us to continue important operations at a time when our region and country need it most,” said Bruce Pinkleton, dean of the Edward R. Murrow College at Washington State University.
The provision would also make public broadcasters that are operated by large universities eligible for PPP, which would benefit public radio stations like those run out of the University of Washington and Washington State University.
Additionally, for these loans to be forgiven, the local newspaper or broadcast station must spend at least 60 percent of the loan funds on payroll in order to keep journalists, newsroom workers, and other essential employees on the job.
Cantwell also secured language in the stimulus package that waives affiliation rules for local newspapers and radio and TV stations so that they can qualify for a second round of PPP funding. To qualify, an individual newspaper or station must have 300 employees or fewer and meet revenue loss requirements.