It’s a hot topic, and the U.S. House of Representatives approves of it. The Senate, however, is another matter, and bipartisan legislation designed to expand the eligibility for U.S. Small Business Administration loan access to local newspapers and radio and television stations in need could be derailed by Republicans unwilling to give the OK.
As of midday Thursday, talk of getting the upper body of Congress to approve the legislation signaled that such an affirmative vote wouldn’t be happening.
But, the bipartisan legislation will likely fare better than the monster $3 trillion COVID-19 wish list, introduced Tuesday in the Senate, which included financial relief for struggling local media outlets. Republicans called the bill dead on arrival.
The new local media legislation was introduced by Democrat Maria Cantwell, of Washington, and is co-sponsored by Republicans Joni Ernst and John Boozman, and high-ranking Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Schumer.
If passed, the bill dubbed “The Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020” would expand access to SBA loans for local radio and television stations under the Payroll Protection Program.
It mirrors House legislation introduced earlier this week. The expansion of PPP for local media would provide television and radio broadcasters, as well as newspapers—the same treatment as hotels and restaurants received under the original CARES Act PPP. Eligibility would be based on a physical location basis.
A local station would be required to fit within the SBA-size standard for the broadcasting industry, or under $41.5 million in revenue annually.
The legislation would also ensure that the expanded PPP funds would remain at the local level through additional oversight.
Some GOP Members of Congress have expressed concerns that federal funding be reserved for small businesses, and argue that local radio and TV stations in large part are owned by national publicly traded companies.
Funding would also benefit local newspapers, which have struggled for 25 years to combat the rise of internet-based websites, apps and bulletin boards including Craig’s List as more effective and cost-efficient advertising platforms.