September 2, 2020 Christina Mullin


 ~Work Projects Administration~

Also known as Works Progress Administration, the WPA was active from 1939-1943. It was a work program for the unemployed, which was created in 1935 under U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

 The purpose of the program was to provide useful work for millions of victims of the Great Depression and thus preserve their skills and self-respect. The economy would in turn be stimulated by the increased purchasing power of the newly employed.


What would FDR do today?  Do you think we need another WPA to fight massive unemployment and the fall out due to Covid-19?

The WPA was bold, creative, in line with the ‘traditions of America’ and a model of large-scale government doing good.

In January 1935, facing an unemployment crisis not unlike today’s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in his State of the Union address that the exigencies of the moment demanded a massive, unprecedented public works program that became the Works Progress Administration.

During its eight-year existence, the WPA put some 8.5 million people to work (over 11 million were unemployed in 1934) at a cost to the federal government of approximately $11 billion. The agency’s construction projects produced more than 650,000 miles (1,046,000 km) of roads; 125,000 public buildings; 75,000 bridges; 8,000 parks; and 800 airports. The Federal Arts Project, Federal Writers’ Project, and Federal Theater Project—all under WPA aegis—employed thousands of artists, writers, and actors in such cultural programs as the creation of art work for public buildings, the documentation of local life, and the organization of community theatres; thousands of artists, architects, construction workers, and educators found work in American museums, which flourished during the Great Depression. The WPA also sponsored the National Youth Administration, which sought part-time jobs for young people.

Today, there is surging youth unemployment. In an economy in which approximately 36 million people have filed unemployment claims, young people tend to be concentrated in the economy’s most precarious sectors. Those under 25 are 93% more likely to lose their jobs than those who are 35 or older. With less wealth than previous generations, coupled with crippling educational debt, young people are particularly ill equipped to weather the storm. Could a program modeled after Roosevelt’s National Youth Administration, which under WPA auspices provided employment and work training to more than 4.5 million youths address the problem?

How about this idea: with climate change already a grave threat to both global health and the global economy, the time for vigorous action is now. Investing in clean-energy infrastructure and addressing other environmental issues (such as hazardous waste sites, access to clean air and water, and underdeveloped public transit, etc.) would create millions of jobs.

Excerpted from a piece in USA Today by Jerome Karabel,

And Britannica.com