House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will unveil a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes sought-after provisions to assist a wider scope of newspapers, radio and TV stations.
The proposal makes local news outlets eligible for small-business loans even if they are owned by much larger entities.
Trade groups representing broadcasters and news publishers had sought those provisions, arguing that the dramatic drop in ad revenue was hitting individual markets.
But local stations have been ineligible for the loans because their parent companies had more than 500 employees, the cutoff for eligibility in the small business relief, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. The loans are forgivable if recipients retain employees and fulfill other requirements.
The legislation covers loans “for expenses associated with an individual physical location of that business concern to support the continued provision of local news, information, content, or emergency information, and, at the time of disbursal, the individual physical location.” The relief loans would then be limited to each individual location, with a set of requirements that include less than $41.5 million in revenue annually.
Local media advocates also have been asking the Trump administration to direct billions in government ad dollars toward local media outlets.
The provision for local media is similar to one given to restaurants and hotels in the initial relief bill, which passed in March. That created a bit of a backlash as chains like Shake Shack collected small business loans, only to return the sums amid the bad P.R. But lawmakers in both parties had supported the move to widen the scope of loans for local media.
The relief legislation, called the Heroes Act, would provide $1 trillion to state and local governments experiencing severe shortfalls. There also would be $200 billion for hazard pay for essential employees who continued working during the pandemic and $75 billion for testing and contract tracing. There also would be another round of impact payments — $1,200 per family member, and up to $6,000 per household. It also includes an enhanced tax credit to encourage employers to keep employees on the payroll, and extends the increased unemployment payments through January.
Pelosi said that the huge outlay is feasible because of low interest rates.
“We must think big for the people now, because if we don’t, it will cost more in lives and livelihood later,” Pelosi said. “Not acting is the most expensive course.”
The relief package overall is a long shot to become law, as leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate already have pushed back against some of its provisions, including funding for state and local governments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “this is not a time for aspirational legislation, this is a time for practical response to the coronavirus.”
The local media provision is expected to be matched by a proposal on the Senate side from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — yet that is likely contingent on another round of coronavirus relief.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who along with Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) urged the inclusion of the local media provision, said in a statement, “This is an important lifeline for trustworthy sources of local news that will help them continue to serve our communities.”
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