As Congress continues to negotiate additional legislation to support small businesses struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., spoke on the Senate floor Monday to urge her colleagues to make local media outlets eligible for funding through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Cantwell’s speech comes after she led a bipartisan letter over the weekend calling on Senate leadership to make local newspapers, TV and radio stations eligible for the program by fixing the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) affiliation rule. Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Boozman (R-AR) also signed the letter.
“It is so important to us to address this issue, because these are the people who are on the front line of delivering the information to us about this crisis,” Cantwell said in a news release.
“We need the media – the local, small media – to help us continue to communicate,” Cantwell continued. “After all, the basis of a democracy is about truth and transparency, and they are helping us to build a community of truth and transparency. We need to help them during this crisis.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt local media outlets around the country. In the last few months, local newspapers have lost as much as 50 percent of advertising revenue, and the National Association of Broadcasters found that some local broadcasters have reported as much as a 90 percent loss in advertising revenues. Nationwide, advertising losses for local TV and radio broadcasters are estimated to reach at least $3 billion. An estimated 33,000 U.S. news workers have been laid off, furloughed, or have had their pay reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic began.