House Bill – H.R. 7640, also known as the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, provides tax credits for sustaining local newspapers through payrolls for journalists, advertising for small businesses, and reader subscriptions. The bill must be passed by Jan. 3, 2021; otherwise, it will need to be reintroduced under the new administration.
By Lauren Stauffer
Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Introduced by Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) on July 16, 2020, to the U.S. House’s Ways and Means Committee, H.R. 7640 provides three levels of tax credits to help offset the decline in local advertising revenue as the pandemic continues to shutter small businesses that largely support their community newspapers.
The legislation specifically outlines the tax credits as:
· Private consumers are offered a non-refundable tax credit up to $250 annually to incentivize individual subscriptions to local news organizations. The credit can cover 80% of subscription costs in the first year and 50% of subscription costs in the subsequent four years.
· Small to medium-sized businesses are offered a non-refundable tax credit to advertise with local newspapers, as well as local radio and television stations. The credit can cover up to $5,000 of advertising costs in the first year and $2,500 in the subsequent four years.
· Local newspaper organizations are offered a refundable tax credit of up to $25,000 in the first year for each employee or independent contractor who is a qualified journalist, and up to $15,000 in the subsequent four years. If the tax credit is greater than taxes owed, the difference will be refunded to the news organization.
Of Pennsylvania’s 18 members of Congress, three representatives have signed to co-sponsor the bill as of Nov. 12, 2020, including Brian Fitzpatrick of District 1 (R), Dwight Evans of District 3 (D), and Madeleine Dean of District 4 (D). According to Congressman Newhouse’s D.C. office, the bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing within the House’s Ways and Means Committee.
The chairperson for the committee, Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), was unable to be reached for further information or updates on Wednesday, Dec. 9.
Once the 116th Congressional body ends on Jan. 3, 2021, any bill that has not gone through the entire legislative process by passing the house, senate and signed into law by the President, is considered dead. A new bill would need to be introduced to the 117th Congress to support local journalism and community newspapers.
Pennsylvania’s U.S. House of Representatives in the 116 Congress, and Pennsylvania Senators, are listed below.
To find out what counties are in each congressional district check out a map, here.
Senators are statewide representatives.
Members of Congress without links or local area phone numbers can be searched, here.
PA Members of Congress:
*Denotes current co-sponsors of the bill.
Pittsburgh # (412) 390-1499
DC # (202) 225-2135
Pittsburgh # (412) 344-5583
DC # (202) 225-2301
Mary Gay Scanlon
Media Hotline – 610-434-1444
With local newspapers in decline, what is the state of local reporting? (By Neil Strebig, former managing editor of The Northside Chronicle, for Pittsburgh Quarterly)