The relief bill would give university licensees access to PPP loans

Hundreds of licensed public broadcasters at universities would be eligible for financial relief through the Paycheck Protection Program as part of a program change included in the COVID relief bill passed by Congress on Monday.

Community-licensed public broadcasters have received millions of dollars under the forgivable loan program to make up for financial losses caused by the pandemic, especially for supporting businesses. But broadcasters affiliated with larger institutions were not eligible for the program.

A provision in the bill would change the membership rule to allow media owned by larger entities to access the funds, said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Author of the provision, in a statement. Press.

The relief bill would re-authorize the Small Business Administration program until March 31, 2021.

“Local news is essential,” Senator Cantwell said in the statement. “It makes our communities – and our country – stronger by asking important questions, providing accurate facts and fighting disinformation and disinformation. This bill will make more newspapers, television and radio stations, and public broadcasters eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program so that local journalists can keep us informed. “

Senator Cantwell added in the statement that the change would also allow stations to receive a second round of PPP aid. Joni Lupovitz, senior director of public policy at NPR, told Current these stations would have to show a 25% loss in revenue for at least one calendar quarter in 2020 to be eligible.

“Legislative negotiations have been particularly difficult because public radio and television stations, especially college and university licensees, are organized in so many different ways,” Lupovitz said.

NPR and University Station Alliance advocated for PPP eligibility for university-owned stations.

Virginia Dambach, executive director of the University Station Alliance, told Current that some university stations have suffered a “double whammy”, despite cuts in funding from their university licensees in addition to other losses in revenue during the year. pandemic.

The updated wording in the bill “is just a way to stabilize ourselves and ensure that these stations are able to retain their staff, and continue and continue to provide the services that are so essential in their communities”, Dambach said.

University Station Alliance and NPR are investigating whether the wording of the bill is broad enough to include stations licensed to other entities such as school boards or libraries, Dambach and Lupovitz said.

According to Dambach, 185 CPB-qualified public radio stations and 51 university-licensed public television stations would be eligible to receive PPP support. Another 36 public broadcasters are licensed to local authorities such as school districts, and 30 are licensed to states, she said.

The current analysis of public PPP data found that at least 90 public media outlets this year received loans totaling more than $ 55 million.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that radio and television stations must employ fewer than 500 employees to be eligible. The limit does not apply to stations with a university license.

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