The Tampa Bay Times and its related companies received a loan of $8.5 million under the federal government’s program to support businesses harmed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The loan is guaranteed by the Small Business Administration and comes under the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress last month and signed by President Donald Trump.
The program is designed to help smaller businesses keep paying employees during the crisis, and loan amounts are based on a company’s payroll. For the first eight weeks after a loan is made, the government will forgive repayment of expenses for payroll, plus some rent, utilities and mortgage interest.
The crisis hit local businesses hard, and advertising revenues at the Times have fallen by 50 percent. In response, the company reduced newspaper printing and delivery to Wednesday and Sunday and furloughed dozens of employees, mostly in production, delivery and sales.
Even so, the company has said, the expenses saved by those changes will cover only half of the sharp decline in advertising revenue.
The company said it had recalled a few employees from furloughs and it would restore a temporary 10 percent pay cut that had been set to end the first week of June. The 13-week pay cut happened for Times' staff just as the virus was erupting. (The five most senior executives took a 15 percent pay cut, and it will continue.)
But the main impact is that the company can preserve operations at their current level and wait longer for the economy to improve.
“This loan gives us more time to ride out the crisis before we have to make even more changes,” said Times chairman and CEO Paul C. Tash. “It makes a big difference, and we are grateful for it.”
The loan was made through Hancock Whitney Bank, where the Times keeps its business accounts. Hancock is a preferred lender under the SBA program. A portion of the loan will go to other Times affiliates, including Florida Trend magazine and Tampa Bay Newspapers, a group of weekly newspapers in Pinellas and Pasco counties.