Three news outlets have received more than $23 million in forgivable stimulus loans
Newspapers were struggling to stay profitable before the coronavirus
News outlets are receiving tens-of-millions in federal stimulus money as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that President Trump signed into law, among them such venerable newspapers as The Seattle Times and Tampa Bay Times.
The money is coming through forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans under the CARES Act that Congress passed last month.
According to the Small Business Administration, businesses with under 500 employees can apply for PPP loans, which are forgivable if they are used for qualifying expenses such as payroll costs and rent.
However, it's unclear whether any of the news outlets intend to repay the money, or how much they'll repay.
The Tampa Bay newspaper, which received an $8.5 million loan, told Just the News on Thursday that its chairman and CEO, Paul Tash, says the federal government will "likely forgive much of the loan" and that the "remaining balance" will carry an interest rate of 1 percent.
The Seattle Times received a $9.9 million PPP forgivable loan from the federal government. In its voluntary announcement of the loan, the Seattle Times stated that the loan is forgivable but didn't specify whether the company plans to repay any of the money. The paper did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
The media outlet Axios, based in Arlington, Va., disclosed that it had received a forgivable PPP loan of roughly $5 million. Axios did not respond when asked if it plans to repay the loan.
Congress setup the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the 2008 rescue package during the financial crisis.
Most of the money that went to financial institutions as part of the program had to be repaid.
The Treasury Department ultimately reported a profit of $15 billion in 2014 after TARP officially ended. The funds provided to businesses in the CARES Act that passed last month do not need to be repaid in full if certain requirements are met.
The SBA's PPP program webpage explains that the loans "will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll).
Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees."