WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) introduced legislation that would create a new grant program administered by the Department of Labor to hire America’s unemployed and underemployed journalists and writers. In April 2020, the New York Times estimated that 36,000 workers at news outlets had been laid off, or had their positions reduced, and these numbers do not account for freelance and gig writers. Inspired by the 1935 Federal Writers’ Project of the New Deal Era, the 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project Act will help address the mass unemployment of writers. It will also create a nationally administered and searchable repository that archives the stories of America’s history. 

“I am pleased to introduce the 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project Act today to coincide with the 86th Anniversary of the original Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Writer’s Project,” said Rep. Lieu. “This program will revive the Federal Writers’ Project of the New Deal Era by creating a new grant program to hire America’s unemployed and underemployed writers. Many writers were laid off or had their work reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many young people have graduated into an economy that has not been able to provide opportunities to leverage their skill sets. My bill would create a new jobs program for these talented and high skilled individuals, while allowing them to capture invaluable American stories that may otherwise go untold. The New Federal Writers Program will be vital to our economic recovery to build back better.”

“Our country’s vibrant literary community has been deeply affected by the pandemic,” said Rep. Leger Fernandez. “Our communities rely on reporters, writers, and poets to inform us and open our eyes to the realities of the world around us. As we rebuild from this pandemic, writers will play an essential role in telling our stories and tying our communities together around a shared history. I am proud to co-lead the 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project alongside Representative Ted Lieu to help our storytellers inspire new generations of listeners and readers.” 

The 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project is supported by:

David Kipen, Founder of the Libros Schmibros Nonprofit Lending Library, former NEA Director of Literature (2005-2010)

“Rep. Ted Lieu and his heroic staff have taken a 1,000-word L.A. Times essay by the founder of a nonprofit lending library and, together with my Libros Schmibros colleagues, created a bill that might just begin to unify our astonishing, divided, crazy-quilt country. I think of this bill as a form of domestic cultural diplomacy. The Federal Writers’ Project’s bestselling State Guides of the 1930s delighted a nation and nurtured an entire generation of great American writing. The work we’ve done to reinvent the Project will provide jobs for 900 fledgling and experienced writers of all kinds, promote reading and the humanities, preserve our elders’ endangered stories, and, at long last, help reintroduce America to itself.”

There’s more! Read the full News Release here.