Federal Funding for Public Media Update

By Cait Beroza |

Since May, our grassroots network has pressed legislators to provide federal funding for public media in the next COVID-19 relief package and the Fiscal Year 2021 spending bills, and this month, we could see movement on our requests.

Here’s what you need to know:

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives return to Washington, D.C. on September 8 and September 14, respectively, after August recess. Lawmakers must pass a spending measure before the current fiscal year ends on September 30 to keep the government and federal programs operating.

COVID-19 Relief Funding

Over the summer, negotiations between chambers on the subsequent COVID-19 relief package stalled but could resume this month.

These are the proposals that have been circulated over the past few months:

Congressional Proposals

The Senate Republican’s Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act proposed $175 million to ensure local public radio and television stations could continue to provide critical public services in local news and information, at-home learning services for students, and emergency communications.

This week, the Senate plans to vote on a “skinny” COVID-19 relief bill, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act. This bill would not provide relief funding for public media stations. Reports indicate that the bill is unlikely to become law.

The House of Representatives’ Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act does not include public media relief funding.

How to Show Your Support

Almost every industry has been affected by COVID-19, including public media stations. Despite financial hardship, public media stations have expanded their missions to ensure communities have the services they need today and tomorrow.

To protect these community institutions, it is vital that viewers and listeners vocalize their support for emergency funding for public media stations. Every voice counts, especially now.

To show your support, urge Congress to provide $175 million in emergency funding for public radio and television stations in the next COVID-19 relief package. The funding would be distributed to nearly 1,400 stations and would enable the continuation of information you trust, localized educational support for students, teachers and parents, and emergency alerts.

Annual Appropriations Process

In July, the House of Representatives approved a Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending package containing increased federal funding for public media.

To date, the Senate Appropriations Committee has not taken up any spending bills.

With the current fiscal year ending on September 30, Congress is expected to pass a short-term measure to keep federal programs funded and provide more time to finish the FY 2021 bills.

How to Protect Annual Funding

During every step of the funding process, our mission is to remind legislators just how important public media is to communities.

At any moment, funding could be threatened. When community members tell their lawmakers why public media matters to them it builds support and helps stop challenges.

Until FY 2021 funding is finished, we must continue to tell our elected officials to support the federal investment in public media. You can send your message now.

For almost ten years, our Action Network has united and stood up for local stations and the public services that they provide. With your support and action, we can ensure our stations will be able to continue carrying out the services that inform, enrich, and connect virtually every American community.

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