W.P.A. and other Federal Relief Programs During the Great Depression


On April 8, 1935, Congress approved the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, the work relief bill that funded the Works Progress Administration (WPA was renamed the Works Progress Administration in 1939). Many different programs came under the Federal Government’s plan for relief during the Great Depression. Over the next few weeks, these will be highlighted in blog posts.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his plans for a works program in his message to Congress on January 4, 1935 , with the premise that those capable, though unemployed, had a right to work. The works programs were legally barred from projects that would compete with the economic markets that were still strong at the time (such as production of necessities for daily life). Over the life of the programs, the WPA alone gave work to approximately 7,800,000 individuals. The Works Projects Administration employed so many people, that WPA came to refer to all of the different works programs. While the construction and repair projects are well known, the professional projects were also important.

Sources Consulted

  • “Works Progress Administration” Today in History: April 8. American Memory Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/apr08.html Accessed 9 April 2014

  • MacMahon, Arthur W., John D. Millett, and Gladys Ogden. The Administration of Federal Work Relief. Studies in Administration” volume XII. Public Administration Service. Chicago: 1941

  • Works Projects Administration, Report on Progress of the WPA Program (June 30, 1940)

Overview of Works Progress Administration

One way to understand the WPA is to view a 1939 pamphlet the agency created called Questions and Answers on the WPA.

This is available at the Connecticut State Library, Federal Documents Y3.W 89/2: 2 W 89/9.

It is also available online: