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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is circulating a draft letter to be sent to the White House requesting additional relief targeted specifically at local newsrooms, according to a draft of the letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Local news was already facing dire strains in the U.S., but the coronavirus and a pending recession have pushed the industry into near collapse at a time when people need access to news and information more than ever.

  • The $2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress last month covers small businesses, including some news companies, but advocates argue it's not enough to cover the long-lasting damages coronavirus will have on local news.
  • Newsrooms are officially considered "essential services" by the federal government and many state governments, but some argue they won't be able to survive without additional financial support.
  • Dozens of local and national newsrooms have begun instituting pay cuts, layoffs or have ceased publication altogether in response to the hit the advertising market has taken since the pandemic surged.

Driving the news: Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Bill Flores (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas) are seeking support for a letter to President Trump that calls for federal advertising dollars to be prioritized to local outlets.

The letter asks Trump to:

  • Direct Cabinet secretaries to speed up planned advertising campaigns to local media outlets.
  • Direct federal agency advertising dollars for new and existing programs to local media.
  • Incentivize a portion of the coronavirus stimulus funds that are going to businesses be used for advertising on local media.

What they're saying: “We believe that executive branch agencies have a powerful opportunity to support local media and promote public awareness by directing that federal spending on advertising be prioritized for local media outlets," per the letter.

  • “Specifically, we encourage federal agencies to put into action today already funded campaigns to achieve certain public objectives as well as potential promotions of the economic stimulus programs provided for by the CARES Act and other recent legislation.”

The House's efforts follow calls from nearly two dozen senators last week, led by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, to provide relief for local newsrooms in any future COVID-19 relief package.

  • All of the letter's 19 Senate signatories were either Democrats and Independents.

Between the lines: None of these efforts fully address the needs and asks of the news industry.

  • On Thursday, some of the biggest media trade groups, representing thousands of publishers and broadcasters, asked Congress to provide extensive relief to local news outlets in its next stimulus bill.
  • Part of their requests included ensuring that local media can seek relief under the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal backstop to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. This request has not been mentioned in any of the efforts from Congress.
  • Some TV and radio station groups, like Gray Television, have struggled to take advantage of the existing funding, because their size is being calculated on their larger holding group, not the sizes of struggling newsrooms at the local level.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
7 mins ago - Health

The U.S. is approaching the vaccine hesitancy "tipping point"

Expand chart
Data: CivicScience; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. will probably run out of adults who are enthusiastic about getting vaccinated within the next two to four weeks, according to a KFF analysis published yesterday.

Between the lines: Vaccine hesitancy is rapidly approaching as our main impediment to herd immunity.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
30 mins ago - Energy & Environment

The finance sector links arms on climate

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A big, UN-backed umbrella group of banks, asset managers, investors and insurers launched Wednesday to boost private clean tech finance and press polluting industries that use their services to cut emissions.

Why it matters: The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) is the broadest financial industry effort yet on climate change.

Scoop: Chris Christie friends believe he's running in 2024

Chris Christie at the White House in 2020. Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seriously considering running for president in 2024, three people familiar with his thinking tell Axios.

Driving the news: While Christie isn't saying anything publicly about his thinking — besides telling radio host Hugh Hewitt he's not ruling it out — people close to him have an early sense of the rationale and outlines of a potential candidacy.

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