Thursday, April 11, 2013

Workers Progress Administration

Employment and Activities poster for the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936
The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. In much smaller but more famous projects the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.
Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the agency. The WPA's initial appropriation in 1935 was for $4.9 billion (about 6.7 percent of the 1935 GDP), and in total it spent $13.4 billion.
At its peak in 1938, it provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and women, as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. Full employment, which emerged as a national goal around 1944, was not the WPA goal. It tried to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.
The WPA was a national program that operated its own projects in cooperation with state and local governments, which provided 10%-30% of the costs. WPA sometimes took over state and local relief programs that had originated in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) or Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) programs.
Liquidated on June 30, 1943, as a result of low unemployment due to the worker shortage of World War II, the WPA provided millions of Americans with jobs for 8 years. Most people who needed a job were eligible for at least some of its positions. Hourly wages were typically set to the prevailing wages in each area. But, workers could not be paid for more than 30 hours a week. Before 1940, to meet the objections of the labor unions, the programs provided very little training to teach new skills to workers.

“I worked nearly all day framing and I have got it nearly done.  Very pleasant day.”


“I took 22 bu potatoes to Geo Lowe this morning and then drew half a ton of hay and a little straw to John Despard.  This afternoon I dug the trench for the wall under the barn and got it about two thirds fill up.  Very pleasant day.”
Leesah

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