The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXI1
FEDERAL CONTROL AND
NATIONAL UNIFORMITY

IN ADDITION TO considerations alluded to in the foregoing chapter, it is often urged in support of centralized control over the WPA program that such control is essential to realization of the desired degree of "national uniformity." Those demanding increased state and local control, on the other hand, are less concerned with uniformity and contend in support of their position that this would permit greater flexibility in administration and would result in more effective adaptation to local needs and opinions. Like other considerations having a bearing on this whole issue of central versus local controls, questions relating to national uniformity, too, go to the very depths of one's philosophy about government and democracy itself.

When President Roosevelt in April, 1939, made his plea for the continuance of federal operation of the WPA program he based his request, in part, upon the contention that a grant-in-aid program would inevitably result in "inefficiency and confusion through lack of coordination and uniformity. . . ." In similar vein, Howard Hunter once declared:

[The] . . . proposal that federal unemployment relief funds and the administration of these funds be turned back to the states and local communities . . . is no new idea because we had two years of experience with this plan, which experience, in the main, was bad both from the point of administration and the fact that there were 48 standards of relief instead of one.2

On another occasion Mr. Hunter raised the ante considerably, contending that a return to grants-in-aid would give rise to "thousands of standards."3

The fact that federal authorities are concerned over lack of uniformity inherent in 48 states, to say nothing of "thousands" of

____________________
1
As quoted in the New York Times, April 28, 1939. This prediction is particularly interesting when viewed in the light of a somewhat earlier statement in which he praised the grant-in-aid principle as having "given us flexible administration."-- Ibid., January 17, 1939.
2
WPA Release 4- 1904, February 26, 1939.
3
WPA Release 4- 1957, May 15, 1939.

-759-

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