Sustainability act aims to keep journalism alive

Jul 29, 2020

As Congress prepares the next coronavirus economic stimulus package, federal assistance for struggling community newspapers took new forms during summer sessions of the 116th Congress.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona, a Tucson-area representative whose constituent newspapers include Wick Communications, introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

She serves on the influential House Appropriations Committee. The bill’s co-sponsor is Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington.
The bill would create tax credits to help local newspapers.

  • Subscribers would receive up to $250 a year in tax credits to pay for their local newspaper subscriptions.
  • Publishers would receive tax credits to support journalists’ salaries at the levels of 50% of salaries in the first year and 30% in subsequent years, up to $12,500 per quarter.
  • Advertisers would be reimbursed for local ads — 80% of the cost in year, one up to $5,000, and 50% in subsequent years, up to $2,500.

Kirkpatrick said at the introduction of the bill:

“Local Journalism is a bedrock pillar of communities across the United States. Unfortunately, journalistic endeavors throughout the country are facing major economic struggles that put the future of many publications in serious jeopardy. These struggles existed before COVID, but the pandemic has only made them more severe. We need to make sure these publications can sustain themselves through this crisis and beyond, and I believe the credits in this bill make significant progress in providing a pathway to that sustainability.”

NNA President Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget, said NNA had worked with Rep. Kirkpatrick and members of Wick Communications since early June to shape the bill.

“Keeping journalists active in our communities has become the hardest task for community newspapers in this challenging era. If there is anything worse than losing journalists during a pandemic, it is losing journalists during a pandemic in an election year. A lot is at stake in our democracy right now. The National Newspaper Association applauds the creativity of Representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse and their colleagues in helping us find new ways to support journalism,” he said.

NNA also continues its work on the Small Business Expense Protection Act, which would preserve the ability of businesses receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans to deduct their payroll and other costs covered by the loans. Senators Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, have disagreed with the Trump administration’s position that the expenses should be taxed. They said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the intent of Congress when it passed the CARES Act, one of the 2020 stimulus bills, was that paycheck loans should not be taxed.

Adelman said work on the Kirkpatrick bill, which is HR 7640, had just begun, and he hoped the House would enact it this year. The Small Business Expense Protection Act, S 3612, is intended as a provision in the Senate’s next stimulus bill.