Government Assistance in the 1930's

The New Deal


When Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took presidential office in 1933, nearly twenty five percent of the workforce was unemployed, so he initiated a number of assistance programs, called the New Deal. The New Deal consisted of the two stages, the First Hundred Days/ First New Deal and the Second New Deal, and there were three goals of the New Deal programs, including relief, recovery, and reform.
The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was one of the beginning First Hundred Day relief programs and it was only supposed to be temporary, but it lasted longer than expected. The FERA was set up in May of 1933 to coordinate and increase federal unemployment assistance to the states. Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's most trusted advisor, ran the FERA from 1933 to 1935, distributing $500,000,000 through states and to the unemployed.
However, The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 replaced the FERA with the Works Process Administration (WPA). The WPA was most important cultural New Deal program and the launch of the Second New Deal. It was set up to operate a nation-wide program of "small useful projects" designed to provide employment for needy employable workers, who built bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks, airports, and swimming pools.
This program employed more than 8.5 million. Under the direction of Harry Hopkins the WPA spent more than $11 million in employment relief before it ended in 1943. The WPA employed women along with men, in the areas of sewing, bookbinding, caring for the elderly, nursery school, and recreational work.
The Federal Project One was a separate section of the WPA, which included five major divisions: the Federal Art Project (FAP), the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Writers Project and the Historical Records Survey. At its height in 1936, the FAP employed 5,300 visual artists and it funded creation of 2,566 murals and 17,744 pieces of sculpture that decorated public buildings nationwide. A former conductor of the Cleveland Symphony directed the Federal Music Project, which employed around 16,000 musicians at its peak. The Federal Theatre Project employed 12,700 theater workers at its peak, and presented more than 1,000 performances each month. The Federal Writers Project employed 6,686 writers at its peak in April 1936, with active projects in all 48 states. In fact, John Steinbeck wrote in California for the Writers Project.

One important administration that began in The First Hundred Days was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). At the end of its nine years of existence, the CCC had ultimately employed 2.5 million young men on conservation and restoration projects. It paid young men to work on environmental projects such as replacing forests, draining swamps, creating firebreaks and reservoirs, clearing beaches and campgrounds, and restoring national parks.
The program had great public support, with young men flocking to enroll. A poll of Republicans supported it by 67 percent, and 95 percent of all Californians liked it. A Chicago judge thought the CCC was largely responsible for a 55 percent reduction in crime by the young men of that day.
The impact of mandatory, monthly $25.00 allotment checks to families was felt in the economy of the cities and towns across the nation. The men were working hard and eating well while improving millions of acres of federal/state land. By the end of 1935, there were over 2,650 camps in operation in all states with 505,782 men enrolled.

The second goal of the New Deal was the recovery programs. National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) tried to make a basic change in the relationship between the government and economic life of the country. The NIRA laws regulated the size of businesses and industries to assure economic competition. The NIRA set up the better-known Nation Recovery Administration (NRA), which drew up codes specifying maximum hours of labor, minimum wages, and standards of fair business practice that specific businesses had to comply with. As time went on, specific codes were made for all different industries, and one code even abolished child labor. The NRA was established with excitement and great publicity and a fierce looking eagle served as the symbol, saying, "We do our Part" soon became a familiar sight in the 30s. All employers who signed to the codes were allowed to display the Blue Eagle posters and stickers. The NRA at first seemed to be a large success. At the high point, unemployment was cut by about 2,000,000 but efforts to enforce the codes were unsuccessful.
The NIRA also included Public Works Administration (PWA), which was mainly a recovery agency that helped construct and rebuild many public projects. The PWA rebuilt city halls, courthouses, sewage plants, bridges, hospitals, schools, military airports and public housing in the 1930s. Its purpose was to stimulate economy, not by directly creating jobs, but by constructing facilities that would need large amounts of machinery and would provide jobs for thousands of workers in the built facilities. However, the Supreme Court declared the NIRA and NRA as unconstitutional in 1935.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal politics had profound effects on the US government. On August 14th, 1935, FDR and Congress signed the Social Security Act. It established a federal was most widely known for the old-age assistance, in which workers reaching sixty-five years old were eligible for retirement benefits depending upon how much they had contributed in taxes over their lifetimes. Many believe that Social Security was the New Deal's most important legacy. It established for the first time that the federal government had a social responsibility for the welfare of its citizens.
During the time of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt also gave entertaining talks called 'Fireside Chats', which showed the federal government's closeness to the people. These talks were informal radio talks that were staged during dinnertime, used to boost the nation's confidence, support in the New Deal, and in the new programs. Roosevelt was the first president to master the technique of reaching people over the radio. Roosevelt talked of serious politics, such as bank closures and unemployment in a light and entertaining way. The fireside chats changed the federal government into an institution that was directly experienced. People now believed the government was interested in their welfare, as it was a source of relief payments, served food, and taxed for Social Security. As the role of the government shifted, so did people's interests and views about it.

Works Cited


1. Hart, Diane. History Alive! The United States. Ed. Jeri Haynes. Palo Alto, Ca: Teachers' Curriculum
Institute, 2002. 413.

2. Luce, Hedley, L. This Fabulous Century, 1930-1940. New York City: Time Inc., 1969. 127-134


Kennedy, David, M. Freedom From Fear, The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Luce, Hedley, L. This Fabulous Century, 1930-1940. New York City: Time Inc., 1969. 127-134
Leuchtenburg, William, E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. New York City: Harperand Row Publishers, 1963.
Hart, Diane. History Alive! The United States. Ed. Jeri Haynes. Palo Alto, Ca: Teachers' Curriculum Institute, 2002. 413.
Louchheim, Katie. The Making of the New Deal, Insiders Speak. Cabridge, Ma: President and Fellos of
Harvard College, 1983.
Patterson, James T. New Deal. Grolier National Archives. 10 Apr. 2003 <
Suriving the Dust Bowl: Works Progress Administration. PBS and American Experience. 10 Apr. 2003
Kilpatrick, Pat. The Great Depresion. 1 Apr. 2003. 10 Apr. 2003 <
Goldbard, Arlene, and Don Adams. New Deal Cultural Programs: Experiments in Cultural Democracy.
1995. Institute for Cultural Democracy. 10 Apr. 2003 <
Roosevelt's Tree Army: A Brief History of the CCC. NACCCA. 10 Apr. 2003 <

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