'Axios' Returns Small-Business Loan For Pandemic Relief

  • by April 30, 2020
Digital publisher Axiosis returning a taxpayer-backed loan amid growing public outcry about companies that receive financial help during the coronavirus pandemic. The backlash highlights the pitfalls of seeking assistance from the government while officials proclaim they're doing everything possible to avoid a repeat of the Great Depression.

em>Axios is giving back the $4.8 million it had received through the Payroll Protection Program after finding another source of money, CEO Jim VandeHei announced in a blog post. He said the program had become "much more politically polarized," exposing Axiosto public backlash.

“While applying for the loan felt like the right and prudent thing to do one month ago to protect our 190 employees, if we knew then what we know now, we would have gutted it out and hoped for the best,” VandeHei wrote.



He acknowledged criticism that media outlets and companies backed by venture capitalists shouldn't qualify for the program, which grants forgivable loans to businesses that use most of the money to keep people in jobs.

Technically, Axios does satisfy the requirements to receive a forgivable loan as a company with fewer than 500 employees that has lost revenue because of the pandemic. Like many publishers, Axioshas an events business that has been decimated as people avoid travel and public gatherings. It also has seen advertisers withdraw media spending, as they always do in the early stages of a recession.

The pandemic has been extraordinarily painful for the publishing industry, especially local newspapers whose advertisers consist of companies like retailers, realtors, theaters and restaurants that have been forced to close. In other words, many businesses that may also quality for emergency financial help from the government.

As several media outlets have pointed out, Axios has backers that include billionaires and venture-capital firms that have the financial resources to survive the economic slowdown. To avoid damaging its brand and criticism that it's taking money away from more deserving small businesses without ready access to capital, Axios' decision to return the loan makes sense.

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