President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Harry L. Hopkins to administer the scheme which generated millions of public jobs for many unskilled, unemployed workers as part of FDR's New Deal program. Public employment programs were aimed at invigorating the economy by reducing mass unemployment providing people in the lowest income bracket with the means to buy goods thereby redistributing money and increasing demand for products to stimulate growth in industry, which in turn would result in more jobs.
What did the Works Progress Administration do? The WPA was a federal agency created by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935 to provide light construction jobs for millions of unskilled workers without the need for large amounts of materials or heavy machinery.
What was the result of the Works Progress Administration? The result of the WPA was to provide employment for 25% of the population, between 1935 and 1939 the WPA was the nation's biggest employer. During this time construction workers, working predominantly in towns and cities, built schools, hospitals, libraries, courthouses, city halls, post offices, parks, roads, sidewalks and housing. Unemployment levels dropped and people had money to spend on goods. The demand for products from factories increased which led to the creation of more jobs.
Works Progress Administration Facts for kids: What's the difference between the WPA and the PWA?
Facts about Works Progress Administration
The law known as the 1935 Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April was passed on April 8, 1935 and continued the government's policy of creating federal agencies to manage the economy, bring about Industrial recovery and reduce unemployment levels. The WPA aspired to serve the public good and conserve the skills and the self-esteem of workers
The law allocated $4.88 billion for the WPA to offer direct government employment to the jobless. The WPA had responsibility for the direct hiring of workers for the government projects. This gave WPA administrators control over how many new jobs were created, who got the jobs and the wages and working conditions of the jobs
Work projects were not allowed to compete with private construction and were submitted on an application form to the State Works Progress Administrator of the state where the project was located.
WPA salaries were larger than previous direct relief payments but smaller than private industry wages. Payments varied, but WPA workers made about 50 to 73 cents per hour, which is about $6.55 to $9.56 in today's dollars.
Besides construction work, other Works Progress Administration WPA projects initially involved the theater, writing, music, sewing projects, food distribution, historic and environmental preservation, archaeological digs and disaster relief
The WPA’s activities included the National Youth Administration (NYA), the Federal Art Project, the Federal Writers’ Project, and the Federal Theatre
In 1938 Harry L. Hopkins left his position as head of the agency when he joined FDR's cabinet as Secretary of Commerce . Hopkins was replaced by army engineer Col. Francis Harrington, formerly of the WPA’s Administrative Manual Division
By 1939 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was strongly criticized for its possible socialist or communist connections by the financing of artists and musicians in the "Federal Number One" section. The WPA agency responded by changing course with a new name, Works Projects Administration, and focusing more directly on construction work projects.
The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1939 eliminated the Federal Theater Project, cut back WPA pay and limited enrollment to 18 months.
Bulletin board notices posted at each project announcing a reduction in hourly wages and an increase in working hours. A strike of thousands of WPA workers followed, which was unsuccessful.
Many Americans did not want to be on relief and this extended to working on the WPA. A poem called "I'd Rather Not Be on Relief" by Lester Hunter, written in 1938 in the midst of the Dust Bowl Disaster, reflects the plight and some of their views - refer to Dust Bowl Life .
Despite the problems and the criticisms the legacy of the Works Progress Administration is still apparent. 85,000 public buildings, including 39,000 schools, were built, improved, or repaired. 24,000 miles of sewer lines and 16,000 miles of water lines were installed by the WPA
2,000 swimming & wading pools were constructed and 18,000 new or improved playgrounds & athletic fields were constructed by the WPA
35% of the nation's schools and 70% of its hospitals were built as a result of the WPA
During its 8 year history the Works Progress Administration employed over 8.5 million Americans, built 651,087 miles of highways, roads, and streets, 125,110 public buildings and 8,192 parks
The Works Progress Administration lasted until June 30, 1943 as the nation concentrated its efforts on war production for World War II .
|US American History|
|1929-1945: Depression & WW2|