Federal Emergency Relief Administration

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was the new name given by the Roosevelt Administration to the Emergency Relief Administration (ERA) which President Herbert Hoover had created in 1932. FERA was established as a result of the Federal Emergency Relief Act and was replaced in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

FERA under Hoover gave loans to the states to operate relief programs. One of these, the New York state program TERA (Temporary Emergency Relief Administration), was set up in 1931 and headed by Harry Hopkins, a close adviser to Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt asked Congress to set up FERA—which gave grants to the states for the same purpose—in May 1933, and appointed Hopkins to head it. Along with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) it was the first relief operation under the New Deal. Basically it gave grants and loans to states.

FERA’s main goal was alleviating household unemployment by creating new unskilled jobs in local and state government. Jobs were more expensive than direct cash payments (called “the dole”), but were psychologically more beneficial to the unemployed, who wanted any sort of job, for self-esteem, to play the role of male breadwinner. From May 1933 until it closed in December, 1935, FERA gave states and localities $3.1 billion. FERA provided work for over 20 million people and developed facilities on public lands across the country.

Faced with continued high unemployment and concerns for public welfare during the coming winter of 1933-34, FERA instituted the Civil Works Administration (CWA) as a $400 million short-term measure to get people to work. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration was terminated in 1935 and its work taken over by two entirely new federal agencies, the Works Progress Administration and the Social Security Administration.

 Projects

FERA operated a wide variety of work relief projects, including construction, projects for professionals (e.g., writers, artists, actors, and musicians), and production of consumer goods. The construction and professional projects elicited criticisms of “make-work,” i.e., that little of value was produced.

In contrast, the output of the consumer goods production projects was clearly useful, as canned food, garments, mattresses, bedding, and other goods were produced and then distributed to relief recipients. But these projects, termed production-for-use by FERA administrators, came under fire from capitalists for competing with the private sector. As a result, production-for-use projects that capitalists found offensive were terminated by the time the WPA began in late 1935, and no such government production of consumer goods has been repeated since.

 Worker Education

Workers’ education, a form of adult education, emphasized the study of economic and social problems from the workers’ perspective. When the FERA created its adult education program in 1933, workers’ education classes were included. Between 1933 and 1943 thirty-six experiments in workers’ education, 17 of them for a full ten years the program existed. With as many as two thousand teachers employed at one time, officials conservatively estimated that the program reached at least one million workers nation-wide until it was ended in World War II. Three distinct phases of a federal workers’ education program existed: FERA (1933–1935), Works Progress Administration (WPA—prior to separation from the other adult education programs, 1935–1939), and WPA Workers’ Service Program (1939–1943). FERA and WPA workers’ education stimulated educational activities within the labor movement. For example, in Indiana this program was particularly popular among the new, more radical CIO unions. Federal workers’ education activities also encouraged union-university cooperation and laid the foundation for labor education at Indiana University. New Dealers designed the WPA Workers’ Service Program as the model for a Federal Labor Extension Service, similar to the existing federal agricultural extension program, but it was never implemented.

 Women

Ellen S. Woodward was director of women’s work for FERA and CWA. During the short lifespan of the CWA, Woodward placed women in such civil works projects as sanitation surveys, highway and park beautification, public building renovation, public records surveys, and museum development. Most were unemployed white collar clerical workers. In July 1934, the FERA established a separate division for professional and nonconstruction projects. Project designers in the division for professional projects faced an enormous challenge in creating effective and meaningful work for unskilled women. In 1935 she became assistant administrator of the WPA, where she directed the income-earning projects of some 500,000 women.

 Food

Poor people lacked enough food in the Depression, and farmers had too much. The mismatch was solved by the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (FSRC), FERA, and WPA programs which aimed to reduce farm surpluses by government purchase and then redistribution of food to the needy. Three methods of distribution were employed with varying success: direct distribution, food stamps, and school lunches.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Emergency_Relief_Administration

 

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