It was clear from the beginning that Congress had not found enough money to prevent small businesses — defined as those with fewer than 500 employees — from feeling the pain inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. As legislators continue to negotiate a second round of funding, broadcasters of all sizes are speaking out, hoping to get their portion of the loans in order to stave off further financial disaster.
Hawaii Media Owner George Hochman feels strongly that Congress should authorize more funding for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Hochman is dedicating air time to encouraging listeners to express their own support for the PPP, running a spot 18 times per day from 6 a.m. to midnight on all 15 of his stations in the Hawaiian islands.
Listen to Hochman’s spot now using the media player below or download it here.
Hochman encourages other small radio stations to participate in this effort.
“Owners/managers, get on the air, use your airwaves to get your listeners off the fence and support this program. Now is the time to use the power of our voices and let the public know that they need to call their representatives and tell them to refund” the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program “and do it now, so their employees can get back to work,” Hochman wrote in an email to Radio World.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters is supporting a bipartisan letter from U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.) that is urging their colleagues to open up future SBA loans to broadcasters and news publishers with more than 500 employees.
The original PPP legislation excluded any businesses of this size or larger from applying, but NAB and the senators say that local news outlets are being hit especially hard by the pandemic, despite playing a critical role in informing listeners, viewers and readers.
The senators explain their rationale for seeking the exception in the letter: “Even though these news outlets may be owned by larger groups, they operate independently.” Therefore, they write, “Waiving SBA’s affiliation rules for local newspapers and broadcasters and ensuring that financial assistance flows to the local affiliate, not the parent company, would allow these small, local operations to be eligible for much-needed financial relief.” This change would allow broadcasters the same carve-outs created for the hospitality and restaurant industries, which the Washington Post reports have already drawn significant criticism.
A NAB press release quoted NAB President Gordon Smith as saying, “America’s broadcasters are providing trusted and credible lifesaving coverage to keep citizens safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet local stations are suffering advertising losses of historic proportion that will undermine this critically important service. We urge Congressional leaders to support this proposal to provide immediate SBA loan eligibility to more local radio and TV stations,”
A similar effort is being led by U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D, RI) and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI) in the other Congressional chamber.It is important to note that 97% of the original program’s $349 billion was allocated in less than two weeks, according to the Financial Times. However, the amount of funding floated for the next round is likely to be significantly smaller — closer to $310 billion, according to CNBC, despite increased demand as the effects of COVID-19 hit more sectors.