As part of the federal government’s economic stimulus during the pandemic, the Times company received a loan of $8.5 million on Friday. The money comes in the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Administration. Under the program rules, the government will likely forgive much of the loan, and the remaining balance will carry a 1 percent interest rate.
Most of the money will stay at the Tampa Bay Times, while some will go to our related publications, including Florida Trend business magazine and our free weekly newspapers.
Here are ten things we want you to know.
1. These are extraordinary times. The crisis has crippled business for many of our advertisers, and therefore for the Times. During Easter week, our advertising sales hit a new low.
2. The money makes a difference. To weather the crisis, we have already taken some strong measures, and this support gives us more time for the economy to recover before we would have to do more.
3. The loan does not compromise our independence or limit our journalism. To the contrary, it will help support our work to report the news, to ask hard questions, to hold government and other powerful institutions accountable.
4. It does not solve everything. The loan is substantial, and we are grateful for it. But the way things are going now, it would offset our revenue losses for about three months.
5. The money does not let us add back days of printing and home delivery. We can consider those options only when the economy and local business recovers.
6. Most of the money will go to our employees. We are bringing a few colleagues back from furlough, and we are reversing a pay cut for most employees a month sooner than we had planned. (For our top executives, the pay cut was deeper, and it stays in place.) Most of all, we can keep most of our staff at work.
7. We did not get special treatment. The Times company qualified as an independent business, and we applied through our local bank, Hancock Whitney. We did not hire lobbyists or lawyers to work the system. The loan is calculated on the size of our payroll.
8. We do feel a special obligation, both to tell you about this loan and to use it well. We are a news company operating in the public interest. We watch out for the taxpayers’ money, and that now includes this support from the federal government.
9. We are a local company, based here, and not part of a national chain. We feel our neighbors’ hardship, and we are working to help the Tampa Bay region come through these hard times. That will be good for the community, and for the Times.
10. Readers are the bedrock of our business. Advertising is important, and this government support will fill some gaps while business is hurting. But over the long term, the future of the Times depends most on the support from our readers. We will keep working to earn your trust.
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We send you our thanks, and our best wishes. Stay strong. Better days are ahead.