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LA City Council Must Support Literary Organizations and Writers Amid Pandemic

PEN America-led initiative calls for funding to support literary organizations and writers


(Los Angeles, CA) – Today PEN America–alongside 826LA, Lambda Literary, and Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, and close to 50 Los Angeles area organizations–appealed to the Los Angeles City Council to provide support for literary organizations in any upcoming funding decisions related to the COVID-19 recovery. In a letter sent to Council members today, PEN America and its allies insisted literary organizations be specifically represented in any efforts to revitalize the larger arts community in the city.

“The City Council has already done so much to support the arts and nonprofits at this critical time, and we, along with our allies, are hoping to ensure literary organizations are included in those efforts,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “Publishing and printing alone account for 160,000 jobs in our city, and combined with writers in fashion and entertainment, we make up a significant portion of the creative industry in LA. Supporting arts and the creative community means supporting literary organizations and writers. We hope the Council agrees.”

In addition to including literary organizations in future stimulus funding, the letter also calls for relief for commercial rents for nonprofit literary organizations and funding to support a Los Angeles COVID-19 narrative project that would commission and pay writers to document the effects of the pandemic of the lives of people in Los Angeles.

“The literary arts are not optional; they are essential to our city and our communities,” the letter reads. “Writers are our conscience, our watchdogs, leading in the important work of bearing witness to history and helping us make sense of our lives and our world. We must ensure that their work continues.”

PEN America has more than 7,500 writers, journalists, and other literary professionals and their allies as members across the country. Many are facing significant hardships as writing jobs, as well as side gigs, have all but evaporated under the strain of the coronavirus and the concurrent economic downturn. A survey from Americans for the Arts showed that some 95 percent of artists and creative professionals have lost income due to the pandemic. Literary and media arts organizations have reported median losses over $200,000 per organization.

PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund provides grants of $500 to $1,000 to writers in the United States facing acute financial need as a result of the pandemic.  Since the fund re-launched in response to the crisis in late March, PEN America has received some 850 applications and so far processed grants to 400 writers, including 107 in the state of California.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.