Local newspapers, such as your Watauga Democrat, have remained open and essential to provide valuable and trustworthy information to our community about health-related developments. In many cases, as with the Watauga Democrat, that information is provided free to fully access on our website.

Rarely has local news been in such demand, yet even as this is happening — like for many High Country businesses — there has been a significant decline in revenue. In the case of newspapers, that decline is largely due to advertising from businesses that are now shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet, without newspapers, our community would lose not only its connection to timely information, but the advocacy we publish in this space.

Watauga Democrat staff members have a passion for their jobs, but that comes at a price. The current structure of relief-package SBA loans does not apply to the majority of newspapers — about 80 percent of them — in the United States.

To keep reporters working and newspapers publishing the essential information you read, an expansion of the Small Business Administration loan program is needed: As Congress works on advancing financial relief packages, this must be included.

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