The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
ELIGIBILITY: SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS AND CONTINUED NEED

ELIGIBILITY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

FEW ASPECTS of the WPA program have caused more misunderstanding, more bitterness, and more distress than policies regarding eligibility for WPA employment of persons considered eligible for benefits under the Social Security Act. It may also be said that no policies affecting the WPA program have suffered more frequent, more abrupt, or more marked changes of direction than have those relating to the effect of eligibility for social security benefits upon eligibility for WPA employment. Policies and changes in policies effected from time to time have been influenced by a wide variety of factors.


"Those Eligible for Special Assistance Should Be Excluded from WPA Jobs"

In favor of the WPA's more or less consistent attempts to deny employment to persons presumably eligible for social security benefits it has been urged that since so few WPA jobs are available they should be limited to those for whom no other provision could possibly be made;1 that persons eligible for social security benefits (especially old-age assistance and aid to dependent children) are considered primarily the responsibility of state and local agencies rather than the federal government; and that, since WPA employment was only "a temporary and emergency type of assistance," needy families and individuals should, if possible, be granted the "more fundamental," "permanent" and "continuing" type of aid

____________________
1
Thus, as already noted, these policies are in part only further manifestations of the administration's interest in seeing WPA jobs awarded on the basis of relative need. Of this, Colonel Harrington said in March, 1939, that during the fall of 1938 the WPA had adopted the policy that it "should not be caring for people for whom other provision has been made by legislation . . . [even] in those States where advantage had not been taken of the provisions for taking care of them or where the benefits were very small."-- U. S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Unemployment and Relief (Hearings on S. 1265), Department of Public Works--Amending Social Security Act. 76th Congress, 1st Session. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1939, p. 264.

-425-

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