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Revived New Deal Program Would Employ Out-Of-Work Writers To Document Current Times

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A writer works in a notebook
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There's a new push in Congress to revive a signature program from the New Deal: The Federal Writers' Project.

The bill was introduced last week by L.A. Representative Ted Lieu, and would provide 900 full-time jobs to underemployed writers and journalists to document the unique time we're living in.

"The economy was different, but the sense of crisis in America was quite similar,” said David Kipen, referring to the 1930s New Deal era. Kipen — the founder and co-director of the Libros Schmibros Lending Library in Boyle Heights — was an advocate for bringing the Federal Writers' Project back.

During the Great Depression, the project led to a series of best selling guidebooks about America. It also gave jobs to future heavy-hitters such as Zora Neale Hurston, and documented the lives of 2,300 former slaves.

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Kipen said the original project was successful in part because it didn't just employ big city writers. He hopes that if a new version becomes law, that part stays the same.

"I think the bill's only chance, frankly, is to reach every cowtown in the Union,” he said, “and somehow, as with the original guides, help tell its story."