The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
DETERMINATION OF MONTHLY AND STATE EMPLOYMENT LEVELS

DETERMINATION OF MONTHLY EMPLOYMENT LEVELS

ONCE THE LEVEL of employment for a given year is decided upon by such catch-as-catch-can methods as are used, there still remains the question as to how many workers should be employed from month to month within that year. By and large this decision has been left to administrative discretion. This, obviously, is a most important prerogative, carrying with it power to employ so many during the early months of a year that--unless appropriations are to be exceeded--drastic cuts would later be necessary. Such cuts (or even the threat of cuts) can easily generate so much pressure from unemployed workers, relief officials, and others that Congress would feel compelled to appropriate further funds to ease the situation.

On several occasions Congress, taking time by the forelock, has attempted to forestall further requests for funds by writing into law as it did in 1937 and 1939 provisions requiring that the funds appropriated were to be made to last for specified periods. Although the 1939 provision1 seems to have worked well enough from the point of view of thwarting requests for further appropriations, the ill-fated earlier attempt proved very short-lived. Despite the congressional edict that the funds appropriated by the ERA Act of 1937 were "to constitute the total amount" to be furnished during the fiscal year 1937-1938, the WPA found it necessary to request--and Congress subsequently found itself voting--further appropriations.

A further attempt by Congress to control the number employed by the WPA was made in February, 1939. This required the WPA to apportion the appropriated funds so as "to cover the entire period" until the close of the fiscal year. It also prohibited,

____________________
1
This requirement, usually spoken of as the "Woodrum amendment" was termed "an excellent provision" by Colonel Harrington.--U. S. House Committee on Appropriations (Hearings), Work Relief and Relief for Fiscal Year 1941. 76th Congress, 3d Session. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1940, p. 545.

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