Emergency grants available to freelance journalists during COVID-19

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: BigOakFlickr via Flickrv

During the current coronavirus outbreak, freelancers have reported a mixed bag — some work is on pause, but other work is booming. Whatever your situation, several journalism organizations have stepped up to offer emergency relief and reporting grants.

While reviewing the list below, the most important factors to keep in mind are the eligibility requirements for each application. In some cases, the grant is meant only to support those who have contracted COVID-19 and lost work because they were sick. In other cases, the grant is designated for particular types of reporting work.

Also, some of these funds have been inundated with applications, so make sure you build a compelling case while filing. Several organizations have a particular review process in place, too, so it may take some time to approve and disburse funds. Some applications say decisions are sent out every two weeks, but the volume of submissions may slow down the process in the weeks ahead.

Additional note: Some grant programs are now closed but may reopen later, including the Rory Peck Trust’s COVID-19 Hardship Fund, Freelance Co-op COVID-19 Emergency Fund and Freelancers Union Relief Fund.

The Funds

Fund for Investigative Journalism: Emergency grants of up to $10,000 are available for U.S.-based independent investigative journalists who are working on stories about the novel coronavirus that break new ground and expose wrongdoing in the public or private sector.

Economic Hardship Reporting Project: Grants are available for freelance journalists who are pursuing stories related to the coronavirus and financial suffering in America. This is geared toward writers and photographers who are experiencing significant economic hardship as well.

PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund has been expanded for COVID-19 efforts. Fiction, non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators and journalists can apply for grants of between $500 to $1,000.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors’ Writers Emergency Assistance Fund is an annual fund that helps established freelance writers who are unable to work due to illness, disability, a natural disaster or extraordinary professional crisis. For COVID-19, funds are available for those who can’t work because they are ill or caring for someone who is ill.

The National Geographic COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists was launched for journalists around the world to cover COVID-19 in their communities. It places a priority on projects that will deliver news to underserved populations, as well as local and hyper-local distribution. The application page has a full description of what is desired and what reporting can cover.

International Women’s Media Foundation: The Journalism Relief Fund is open to women-identifying journalists “in dire straits” who need assistance, particularly those with no other sources of income or who have been laid off. Those who aren’t in urgent need are discouraged from applying.

Society of Environmental Journalists: The 2020 Rapid Response Grants of up to $5,000 will support environmental reporting with a focus on climate, conservation or environmental health in North America. Non-members can apply as long as their work is in journalism.

The Authors League Fund helps professional authors, journalists, poets and dramatists who have a financial need due to medical or health-related problems or temporary loss of income. The guidelines indicate that journalists should have a “substantial body of work in periodicals with a national or broad circulation.”

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