The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
GENERAL RELIEF

GENERAL RELIEF is commonly regarded in the United States as the last line of defense against destitution. Needy people who are eligible for special assistance, Farm Security grants, WPA, CCC, or NYA employment, are, so long as appropriations for these services hold out, usually given such types of aid. However, since funds available for these programs are frequently far from sufficient to meet existing needs, and since rules governing eligibility for aid under them preclude aid to many needy people, general relief very often must be relied upon to save resourceless families from destitution and demoralization. Because of this fact it would appear that the nation's program of general relief, like the innermost ring of defense surrounding an important military objective, should be fully organized and strongly fortified against any eventuality. Instead, it is the nation's worst organized, most ineptly administered, and least adequate relief program. "Chaotic" and "haphazard" are terms justifiably applied to it.

Speaking of the administration of general relief, William Haber, professor at the University of Michigan and chairman of the National Resources Planning Board's Committee on Relief Policy, declared in 1940:

On the basis of a reasonably adequate understanding of the experience of most of our states, I have no hesitation in saying that, with the exception of some of the large cities, management of direct relief is as chaotic today as it was in 1933; that the genuine need of hundreds of thousands of people in many areas of the country is not being met; that funds are inadequate; that administration has discarded all the progress of six years of reasonably good experience; that political manipulation is as rampant as ever.1

In further denunciation of general relief administration as it was in 1940, C. M. Bookman ( executive vice chairman of the Cincinnati Community Chest, and also a member of the National

____________________
1
"Towards a National Relief Policy", in Social Security in the United States, 1940. American Association for Social Security, Inc., New York, 1940, p. 99.

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