Axios plans to return $4.8 million coronavirus small-business loan

News website Axios has joined the list of companies returning government-backed loans meant to support small businesses through the coronavirus crisis.

The venture-capital-backed political news outlet plans to return the $4.8 million it received from the feds’ Paycheck Protection Program after finding another source of financial help, CEO Jim VandeHei said Tuesday. The decision was influenced by the fact that the program has become “much more politically polarized,” he said.

“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 on Axios’s website.

Axios and other news publishers planned to use their loans to stave off layoffs and pay cuts as the pandemic hurt their advertising revenue. The company remains “fully committed” to keeping its staffers employed even though it’s returning the money, VandeHei said.

Axios is one of at least two dozen companies that have publicly pledged to return their so-called PPP funds amid an outcry over big firms getting hefty loans while many small businesses were left out in the cold.

Axios is a four-year-old media startup whose financial backers include venture-capital firm Greycroft Partners and WndrCo, an investment firm co-founded by media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. More traditional news companies have also received PPP loans, including the publishers of the Seattle Times and the Tampa Bay Times.

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