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Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)

Franklin D Roosevelt

Federal Emergency Relief Administration: Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. The FERA agency was created as part of FDR's New Deal Programs that encompassed his strategies of Relief, Recovery and Reform to combat the problems and effects of the Great Depression.

Definition and Summary of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Summary and definition:
The Federal Emergency Relief Act, passed by Congress at the outset of the New Deal on May 12, 1933.

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was a federal government relief agency that was created by the law to provide relief support to nearly 5 million households each month. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Harry L. Hopkins as director of FERA which was allocated an initial fund of $500 million to help those in need.  FDR authorized FERA to establish the Civil Works Administration (CWA) as a short-lived measure that only lasted through the winter of 1933-1934.  FERA distributed about $3 billion in relief to 20 million families, 16% of the population, until it  was taken over by the Social Security Board in 1935.

Facts about Federal Emergency Relief Administration
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was the first mass public assistance program put into effect by President Roosevelt's Administration under the New Deal.

The Federal Emergency Relief Act, was passed by Congress on May 12, 1933. The law provided for cooperation by the Federal Government with states to relieve the hardship and suffering caused by unemployment.

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was created by the law and allocated an initial fund of half billion dollars to help those in need.

FERA was not initially established to create programs for the unemployed, its purpose was to channel government money to state agencies to fund their local relief projects

FDR appointed the dynamic Harry Hopkins, who was the chairman of the New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, as director of the FERA program on May 22, 1933 who took charge and started work on the program and immediately took action

Harry Hopkins set up a makeshift office in the halls of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a U.S. government agency, created in 1932 by the administration of Herbert Hoover. The purpose of the RFC was to facilitate economic activity by lending money during the Great Depression

Harry Hopkins appointed staff and immediately began collecting information. He sent telegrams to the Governors of the 48 states that they should set up state organizations to allow him to coordinate the program

It is said that Harry Hopkins disbursed over $5 million to eight states in his first two hours in his new job. He was reacting to FDR's request to get adequate and speedy help to the unemployed. FDR is also said to have advised Harry Hopkins to ignore the politicians

Home Relief Bureaus and Departments of Welfare for Poor Relief were established but by the fall of 1933 it was apparent that neither FERA nor the Public Works Administration (PWA) had significantly reduced unemployment

Harry Hopkins feuded with ultra prudent Harold L. Ickes, who ran the Public Works Administration (PWA) which issued contracts for heavy constructions projects that improved the nation's infrastructure and invigorated America’s "core industries".

The slow moving PWA focused on heavy construction projects that benefited skilled construction workers, engineers and architects but was not conducive to large scale job creation.

Harry Hopkins realized that unless the federal government acted quickly a massive number of the unemployed would be in real distress once winter set in. He voiced his fears to FDR who agreed to take action and the idea for creating another government agency, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) was born

Faced with continued high unemployment and concerns for public welfare during the coming winter of 1933-34, FDR authorized FERA to establish the Civil Works Administration (CWA) as a $400 million short-term measure to get people to work.

On November 9th, 1933, an executive order created the Civil Works Administration (CWA) to provide aid to American men and women who labored on public works projects.

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was planned to be short-lived and last only through the 1933-1934 winter. 

Unlike the Public Works Administration (PWA) who worked via construction firms, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) hired workers directly and put them on the federal government's payroll.

That winter the CWA employed 4 million people, including 300,000 women. The men hired by the CWA agency built 40,000 schools, 500,000 miles of roads and 1000 airports. Women were employed as clerical workers and in  in such civil works projects as sanitation surveys,  park beautification, public records surveys, and museum development.

The cost of the CWA was huge and the program spent nearly $1 billion dollars in just 5 months

Harry Hopkins improvised to obtain funds and poured unallocated PWA funds into the CWA to finance light construction jobs helping unskilled and unemployed people through the winter of 1933/34

FDR became alarmed at the amount of money the CWA was spending and did not want Americans to get used to the idea that the federal government would provide them with jobs.

To emphasize that the CWA had been a temporary measure the agency was closed down by Harry Hopkins in April 1934. The agency was restructured and FERA’s program of direct cash assistance was abandoned, and work relief programs were adopted

The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935 was passed and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created to provide public employment. President Roosevelt appointed Harry L. Hopkins to administer the WPA which went on to generated millions of public jobs for many unskilled, unemployed workers

Following the restructuring, the FERA consisted of three divisions: public works, social service and rural rehabilitation. Works included the construction of freezing and processing plants and establishing a fishing cooperative, a cattle program and a a vagrancy program.

During its first year FERA provided help to an estimated 17 million poverty stricken Americans. By the time FERA ended in 1935 the agency had helped 20 million Americans, 16% of the population, at $3.1 billion dollars until its responsibilities were taken over by the Social Security Board and the WPA in 1935.

US American History
1929-1945: Depression & WW2

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