The U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to decide by Aug. 1 whether to maintain a tariff that newspapers say is crippling their industry.
The duties put on groundwood paper from Canada earlier this year has aided the decline of the newspaper industry, which says the new costs could increase the price of newsprint by as much as 30 percent.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday he is pushing the Commerce Department to end the tariff when it makes a ruling by Aug. 1 on whether to make the tariff permanent.
His call has been echoed by a bipartisan group of Congress members, including ones in New York who fear a permanent tariff could jeopardize jobs in the state.
Schumer estimated there are 721 newspapers in New York with a print readership of more than 15 million employing thousands of workers. Those include six daily newspapers in the state owned by Gannett Co. Inc.
"We just can’t have this," Schumer said on conference call with reporters.
"We can’t have it more importantly because the viability of our upstate newspapers are at stake."
Schumer said if the Department of Commerce ends the tariff, it would eliminate the need for the situation to reach its final arbiter, the U.S. International Trade Commission, for a vote scheduled Aug. 28.
The Trump administration in March imposed the levies on newsprint, a roughly 22 percent import tariff, that comes from Canada, which produces a majority of the U.S. newsprint — particularly in the Northeast.
The additional cost was imposed at the request of the North Pacific Paper Co., which is based in Washington state and owned by a New York–based hedge fund.
"No other U.S. newsprint mills have supported NORPAC, and its petitions are opposed by the American Forest and Paper Industry. Why?" said the News Media Alliance, which represents the newspaper industry.
"The rest of the industry knows that these tariffs will cause damage to newspapers and ultimately reduce the demand for newsprint."
Schumer noted the massive cuts this week at the New York Daily News as another sign that newspapers are struggling.
The newspaper industry employed about 39,000 workers last year, according to federal data cited by the Pew Research Center. That's a decline of 45 percent since 2004.
In a letter last month to the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission, five Congress members from New York urged the agencies to drop the new duty rates.
They argued the industry has already had a decline in newsprint that would be further reduced if the tariff remains in place.
"Local journalism is the core of communities' access to information about their local government, economy and community activities," wrote Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; John Katko, R-Camillus, Onondaga County; Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, Essex County; John Faso, R-Kinderhook, Columbia County; and Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, Putnam County.
"It bolsters our commitment to civic engagement and values. It should not be infringed upon by the claims of a single U.S. producer."