Venture backed news site Axios will give back a $4.8 million loan it secured through the heavily criticized Paycheck Protection Program, claiming that the program has become “politically polarized.” Billions of dollars in low-interest loans intended to help small businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic have found their way to public companies, businesses flush with other sources of cash, big chains like Shake Shack, and companies with links to President Trump. After public scrutiny, many companies have returned the money. As The Daily Beast outlined last week, the loan given to Axios, a well connected D.C. outlet that reports on the federal government, raised questions about a conflict of interest.
Co-founder and chief executive Jim VandeHei wrote on Tuesday that two things had changed in the month since they applied for the loan. The disastrous program had “become divisive, turning into a public debate about the worthiness of specific industries or companies.” And Axios found some money in the back cupboard. “We continued to explore other capital,” VanderHei wrote. “Over the past week, a new alternative source emerged, giving us the confidence to return the PPP funds.”