Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal

By Robert P. Ingalls | Go to book overview

III
FROM EMERGENCY RELIEF TO THE WELFARE STATE

During the mid- 1930s, New Yorkers reconsidered the emergency and temporary character of the state's relief activities. With no end of the Depression in sight, the state launched a sweeping inquiry into government's responsibility for poverty-stricken people unable to find jobs. A commission of experts appointed by the governor concluded that the state should permanently cooperate with local communities In financing and supervising unemployment relief With an amazing display of unanimity, Albany lawmakers accepted this recommendation, thereby guaranteeing New Yorkers a minimum standard of living even if they never returned to work.


1

The nation suffered through the fifth year of the Depression during 1934. Relief rolls continued to grow as more and more people reached the end of their resources after years of forced idleness. The city manager of Rochester declared that "the problem of public welfare continues to be the most perplexing problem facing this and other cities."1 In New York City, applications for public assistance poured in at the rate of over 1200 per day during the summer months when warm weather had previously brought a decline in the demand for rellef. 2 Furthermore, increasing, numbers of middle-class workers went on relief, but they did so with the greatest reluctance, according to Lorena Hickok of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA).

If you are the kind of person the government really should be interested in helping, you go there only as the last resort. You have used up all your resources and have strained the generosity of your relatives and your friends to the breaking point. Your credit is gone. You couldn't charge a nickle's [sic] worth at the grocery store. You owe several months' rent. The landlord had lost his patience and is threatening to throw you out. Maybe you've already gone through an eviction or two. I quote

-48-

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Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Illustrations xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Notes xix
  • I- from Wall Street to State Street 1
  • Notes 24
  • II- Emergency Unemployment Relief 31
  • Notes 42
  • III- From Emergency Relief to the Welfare State 48
  • Notes 66
  • IV- The Search for Security 71
  • Notes 94
  • V- Defending the Defenseless 102
  • Notes 123
  • VI- Lending Labor a Hand 131
  • VII- The Promise of Parity 148
  • Notes 172
  • VIII- The Advent of Public Housing 182
  • IX- Battling the Utilities 210
  • Notes 226
  • X- The End of an Era 231
  • Notes 244
  • Notes 255
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 275
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