Putting People Back to Work

What happened?

President Roosevelt came up with many corporations to help people find jobs. He started the Federal Emergency Relief Act, Civilian Conservation Corps. Civil Works Administration and the Federal Theater Project. He helped millions of people make money for their families. Roosevelt also believed the national government could jump start a dry economy by pouring in a little federal money. He called this "Priming at the pump."

Federal Emergency Relief Act

This act gave 3 billion dollars to state and local governments for direct relief payments. Under the direction of Harry Hopkins, the FERA assisted millions of Americans in need. It lasted 2 years then efforts were shifted to "work relief" programs. These agencies would pay individuals to perform jobs, rather than provide handouts.

Civilian Conservation Corps.

This program was aimed at over two million unemployed unmarried men between the ages of 17 and 25. CCC participants left their homes and lived in camps in the countryside. Subject to military-style discipline, the men built reservoirs and bridges, and cut fire lanes through forests. They planted trees, dug ponds, and cleared lands for camping. They earned $30 dollars per month, most of which was sent directly to their families.
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Civil Works Administration

Established in 1933, Roosevelt put Hopkins in charge of this. Earning $15 per week, CWA workers, built parks, repaired schools, and constructed athletic fields and swimming pools. Some were even paid to rake leaves. Hopkins put about three thousand writers and artists on the payroll as well. There were plenty of jobs to be done, and while many scoffed at the make-work nature of the tasks assigned, it provided vital relief during trying times.

Works Progress Administration

When the CWA expired, Roosevelt appointed Hopkins to head the WPA, which employed nearly 9 million Americans before its expiration. Americans of all skill levels were given jobs to match their talents. Most of the resources were spent on public works programs such as roads and bridges, but WPA projects spread to artistic projects too.

Federal Theater Project

The Federal Theater Project hired actors to perform plays across the land. Artists such as Ben Shahn beautified cities by painting larger-than-life murals. Even such noteworthy authors as John Steinbeck and Richard Wright were hired to write regional histories. WPA workers took traveling libraries to rural areas. Some were assigned the task of transcribing documents from colonial history; others were assigned to assist the blind. Many believe that this was a waste of taxpayers money and were unhappy with the project.