The MLA has strongly endorsed the Twenty-First-Century Federal Writers’ Project Act, proposed by Congressman Ted Lieu and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, which would establish a grant program in the Department of Labor to assist unemployed and underemployed workers whose careers have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like its predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Federal Writers’ Project of 1935, which documented the Great Depression, the new project aims to create opportunities for writers and researchers to engage in the crucial work of recording the immeasurable and lasting impact of this historic period on the United States.
Paula Krebs, the executive director of the MLA, whose proposal for a new WPA sparked a collaboration with Congressman Lieu’s office, affirms this bill’s importance and enormous potential, maintaining that
COVID-19 has had profound effects on the employment of writers and researchers in this country, and Congressman Lieu’s bill would serve the double purpose of collecting the stories of the pandemic for use by future generations and also putting back to work many of the nation’s most talented writers and researchers, whose careers have been devastated by the effects of the pandemic. Students and researchers benefit daily from the work made possible by FDR’s Federal Writers’ Project, and, with the passage of this bill, the same will be true for future generations looking to study the impact of COVID-19 on American culture and history.
Introduced on the eighty-sixth anniversary of the founding of the original Federal Writers’ Project, this legislation, as the American Council of Learned Societies’ president, Joy Connolly, asserts, “is urgently needed in helping us understand what we have been through and guiding us through the next steps in moving forward.”