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Tell Congress to support local newspapers during this crisis

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Community newspapers provide hyperlocal coverage of all the issues that matter to you as a citizen, a neighbor, a family member, a voter and a taxpayer. The multi-faceted team at the Cecil Whig, a flagship paper of APG Media of Chesapeake, works hard day and night to bring you the news that matters most.

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, we’ve doubled down on our efforts despite facing the same economic realities that you and your family are. We’ve made information about prevention, cases, business and event closings, coronavirus fatalities and more freely available that’s in the public interest, and we’ve banded together behind the scenes to create dynamic grant programs for local businesses — who, just like us — are facing turbulent times.

We’re all in this together. You count on us, and we count on our community. It’s time for Congress to support local news sources. And we’re asking that you contact your elected officials on behalf of the Cecil Whig.

“Your local newspaper provides the news and information unique to your community. Where are the testing sites and who’s eligible, which businesses are open, what is the local online unemployment benefit application process, and much more,” pens Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers. “But your access to local news and information is gravely threatened by the economic carnage COVID-19 has wrought.”

Cecil Whig and APG Media of Chesapeake continues to break and report news and expert information from public health authorities. There are considerable costs to our business, and advertising and other revenues so crucial to every local newspaper in the nation has taken a hit that has been fatal to many.

That’s why we’re asking Congress to take urgent action “to ensure you don’t lose your vital sources of timely and trustworthy information,” pens Ridings. He continues:

“First, we’re asking that Congress expand and clarify the Payroll Protection Program to ensure it covers all local newspapers and news broadcasters. While some of these outlets may be owned by large organizations, they must survive on their own. It’s only fair that they should be included in any expansion of the program. These loans will keep the newspaper employees — your neighbors — on their payrolls and help get the news to you in print as well as online. We appreciate the bipartisan letter of April 19th from U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Mnn.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) that requested waiving the Small Business Administration’s affiliation rule to allow local media outlets to access funding, pointing to the critical role these outlets play in keeping communities healthy and informed.

“Second, we are asking that the Trump Administration direct current federal government advertising funds to local news and media outlets. These public service and informative ads could be similar to the ones running right now about the U.S. Census. They could carry critical government information about data from the CDC, access to small business loans, medical resources for families and other important topics. We’re asking for a commitment that would be spent in an equitable manner across all local news providers.

“We also believe that there should be an immediate relief package that is based on total newsroom employees. Some local news organizations won’t survive without some type of immediate grant or infusion that is tied to the organization’s employees who directly work in the newsroom.”

We, along with America’s Newspapers and others nationwide, are on the front lines of providing information during this pandemic — and it’s an honor to provide this public service to keep our communities as secure as possible.

We’re asking for your help: Please contact the offices of your senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress and tell them you support expanding the Payroll Protection Program to include The Star Democrat and other local newspapers. Please tell them that the federal government should use The Star Democrat to convey important information through public service ads. And finally, let them know that a grant based on newsroom employees is critical at this time. Visit www.usa.gov/elected-officials for their contact information.

“Take this easy action to ensure that your access to local information doesn’t become another victim to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ridings.

We are working hard for you, and we’d appreciate you using your voice to help us.

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