Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst wants the Paycheck Protection Program to be expanded so local newspapers, radio and TV stations can access financial assistance at a time when journalists are being furloughed and laid off due in large part to a dramatic drop in advertising revenue.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economy Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress at the end of March. The initial rollout of the program authorized $349 billion in forgivable loans for businesses with less than 500 employees, leaving out a large swath of local outlets that are owned by large companies like Gannett, which operates hundreds of daily and weekly newspapers in 47 states, including the Des Moines Register, and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
According to Ernst’s office, the senator “is pushing for a Small Business Administration rule to be waived” so local outlets owned by large media chains still can access PPP funds.
“Local reporting in Iowa is always vital for our communities, but especially now,” Ernst said in a statement. “Iowa families and small businesses depend on access to the latest, reliable information, and our local newspapers, TV, and radio stations play an important role in doing that.”
The House and Senate in recent days passed a new $484 billion spending package to replenish the PPP, provide separate funding for hospitals and health care workers, and create a new coronavirus testing program.
Ernst, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, also joined a bipartisan letter to the Office of Management and Budget requesting existing dollars go toward “public service announcement advertising” on local media to keep the public informed about the coronavirus pandemic.
“We strongly believe that local newspapers and broadcasters play an integral role during the COVID-19 pandemic and making sure that stations are able to continue operating during this time is critical,” the senators wrote. “We therefore encourage the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies throughout the government to increase advertising in local newspapers and on broadcast stations in order to help ensure they are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.