The idea of letting chain-owned newspapers apply for Small Business Administration loans under the Paycheck Protection Program now has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, reports the News Media Alliance, a lobbying group. The measure was included in the latest coronavirus relief package that House Democrats sponsored and passed last week.

In the Senate, the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020 was introduced by Republicans John Boozman of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

An identical House version was filed by Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman and ranking member of the House Antitrust Subcommittee. The bills would let chain-owned papers apply as individual, independent entities, falling under the 500-employees for the forgivable loans, which are, in effect, grants.

More than two-thirds of U.S. newspapers are chain-owned; among community newspapers, the latest available figure is 62 percent. "The Wall Street Journal calculated recently that titles accounting for around 80% of national newspaper circulation were ineligible under the program’s terms, because they’re 'affiliated' with bigger companies," Columbia Journalism Review's Jon Allsop reports.