WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion social spending bill includes a provision that, if it becomes law, would mark the first time the federal government has offered targeted support in response to the decline of local news.

The help would come in the form of a payroll tax credit for companies that employ eligible local journalists. The measure would allow newspapers, digital news outlets, and radio and television stations to claim a tax credit of $25,000 the first year and $15,000 the next four years for up to 1,500 journalists.

It’s a response to growing alarm that the elimination of newsroom jobs is leaving communities without access to critical information. The concern has grown since a hedge fund with a reputation of ruthless cost-cutting acquired Tribune, one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, in May. Already, about one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have closed and half of local journalism jobs have evaporated in the past 15 years, according to research from the University of North Carolina.

That leaves about 1,800 communities with no local newspaper.

See: Build Back Better plan may clear House this week, as White House says bill will combat inflation

Plus: Here’s Biden’s Build Back Better framework — in two charts

But the credit, which would cost $1.67 billion over the next five years, does create some tension for the industry. Some top Republicans in Congress have derided it as a handout. Leading journalists also…

Read more…