The WPA was strictly a works program. No aid was given
B to unemployables such as the aged, blind, or crippled. These
people remained the responsibility of local government until
federal grants-in—aid became available for aid to the aged,
blind, and dependent children through the Social Security Act
in 1936. Included among more than forty federal agencies
cooperating in the operation of the Works Program were
regular government bureaus and established emergency agencies
along with newly created agencies empowered to operate work
projects, such as the WPA.
Reorganization_Plan No. I, of 1939, transformed the Works
Progress Administration, then renamed Work Projects Administra-
tion, from an independent agency to a unit of the newly created
Federal Works Agency (PWA). At this same time the Public
Buildings Administration, Public Roads Administration, Public
Works Administration, and the United States Housing Authority
were also made units of the PWA.
Due to World War Il and the continued decline in unemploy-
ment the Federal Works Administrator, Major General Philip B.
Fleming, and President Roosevelt agreed in December l9&2 that
WPA operations should be terminated as soon as possible. By
June 30, l9é3, all projects in the states were closed.
Originally intended as a coordinating agency for the Works
’ Program the role of the WPA changed very quickly to one of
leadership in providing for the nation's unemployed. During
the eight years of operations the WPA provided a work relief
program, remarkably free of corruption and scandal, employing
about 8,500,000 needy people. This number represents 75% of
all workers taken from relief rolls and placed in federal
employment. It also represents only about é0% of the nation's
unemployed. Work performed was of a public nature designed to
maintain social services or improve community conditions. From
1939 until the United States' entry into World War II an in-
creasingly large number of projects were directed toward
improvements in national defense. Beginning in December 1941
all projects not vital to the national defense were terminated.
A fitting epitaph can be found in a December 4, l9é2,
letter from President Roosevelt to General Fleming: "I am proud
of the Work Projects Administration organization. It has
displayed courage and determination in the face of uninformed
criticism .... with the satisfaction of a good job well done and
with a high sense of integrity, the Work Projects Administration
has asked for and earned an honorable discharge." The accom-
plishments of the WPA-—tangible and intangible-can be found
in the many buildings still in use today and in the self—respect
restored to those forced to the limits of despair in face of an
economic crisis that discriminated against no one.