Making Money Public: The Journalistic Construction of the Paycheck Protection Program

Parker Bach, Lana Swartz


The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a key component of the United States’ economic policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic crisis, offering forgivable loans to small businesses to aid them in retaining their employees. In this article, we theorize and examine the PPP as a “public money,” performing a mixed-methods analysis of news articles covering the PPP from mainstream and partisan sources between March and July 2020. We focus on three areas of controversy over the PPP in this coverage: the intended beneficiaries of PPP funds, the overlap between PPP and expanded unemployment insurance in paying workers, and the boundaries of which organizations were “small businesses” meriting PPP forgivable loans. We trace how these controversies evolved through continuous redefinition of the core problem of PPP. We demonstrate how journalistic coverage constructs public monies such as the PPP.


Paycheck Protection Program, special money, public money, journalism, framing, frame contests

Full Text: