There’s no readily available list of which companies have been approved for a small business government stimulus loan to help them through the coronavirus crisis, but public filings and company disclosures are starting to fill in some of the blanks.
To date, only a handful of media companies have disclosed that they received a loan from the Small Business Administration’s $349 billion Payment Protection Program despite widespread struggles in the industry due to a COVID-19-related slump in advertising revenues.
The latest is Bustle Digital Group, which as first reported by CNN and confirmed by a BDG representative, was approved for a $7.5 million loan on April 16. This came two weeks after BDG, which publishes Bustle, Nylon and Mic, implemented a series of cost-cutting measures, including laying off two dozen staffers, introducing a temporary tiered pay reduction and shuttering Millennial-focused site The Outline.
A BDG spokeswoman said the loan will enable the company “to partially undo salary reductions across the company and expand hours for part-time and freelance writers.”
BDG joins political news site Axios, The Tampa Bay Times and The Seattle Times Co., which have said they received funds from the PPP, aimed as an incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. Businesses can borrow up to $10 million depending on the size of their workforce and the SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.
The Seattle Times Co. confirmed its $9.9 million loan in a newspaper article. “This is a lifeline for us for the next 60 days,” president and chief financial officer Alan Fisco told the paper. “This gives us a little bit of breathing room.” The Tampa Bay Times got an $8.5 million loan and Axios received just under $5 million.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and the Chicago-Sun Times received loans, too, although the majority of local newspapers and broadcasters, which are struggling amid the pandemic, aren’t eligible because of the way they are structured.
While some media outlets may not want to disclose they received federal funds and the money can only go so far, in many cases they’re part of larger chains, which means the parent company has too many employees to qualify since the scheme is targeted at businesses with a maximum of 1,000 staffers. For a business with one location the limit is 500.
Nevertheless, it recently emerged that some large public companies, including Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. and Shake Shack Inc., were approved for loans due to an exemption for large restaurant chains and hotel groups. After coming under fire, Shake Shack, which has more than 7,000 employees, repaid its $10 million loan. So, too, did, Ruth’s Hospitality.
The Treasury Department has since altered guidelines and urged publicly traded firms to return funds by May 7. A second round of funding — this time for $310 billion — opened Monday, with widespread reports of glitches.
Last week the Federal Reserve said that it would publish a list of companies receiving loans from a number of new funding programs every 30 days. The PPP loans won’t be part of this as the Fed is still considering disclosure policies for that scheme.
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