The W.P.A. - Old and New

 

 

 

This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1940

 

W.P.A.- Old and New

by KARL WODITSCH

 

Coordinator, Federal Works

 

     IN ORDER TO EVALUATE AND APPRECIATE the evolution of the W.P.A. program since its inception, a brief resume of its background is mandatory.

     In the early, dreary, and bewildering days of the depression, workmen in great numbers suddenly found themselves out of jobs. The ranks of the unemployed increased steadily throughout the first three years. Bank balances diminished and one person after another, through sheer necessity and not from choice, became a public charge on relief. Their number grew so rapidly that the burden on the communities increased beyond available resources. Communities attempted to resolve the problem by trying direct relief. However, that method proved too costly and the rolls of the unemployed lengthened further. Localities further tried small local relief programs consisting primarily of “made work,” restricting the work to a minimum rate of pay and a minimum of working hours. None of this so-called “made work” represented major public improvements.

     The burden on communities increased until it was recognized by the Federal Government as a national emergency, after which Congress passed the first emergency relief act appropriating funds for the specific purpose of aiding the communities in the combating of the relief and unemployment situation. Under this emergency act, known as the C. W. A., the program attempted to recognize the problem solely as an unemployment problem and therefore all persons not gainfully employed were eligible to work on this program. Because of the size and scope of the undertaking, and the imperative need in the starting of this program immediately, the administrative control for its operation was improperly organized for efficient workmanship.

     The C. W. A. program proved unwieldy and was followed by the F. E. R. A. program. The latter attempted to meet the problem of unemployment and relief to persons certified by local boards as in need and eligi- [p. 79] ble to receive relief. Also a small work program was instituted by the various counties throughout the country as an experimental method of competing with the relief problem as contrasted with the method of “direct relief.”

     Unbiased investigation, after a year of this method of handling the problem of unemployment, proved a failure inasmuch as 90% of the people on relief were not relief cases but victims of circumstances suffering from the great national malady of unemployment. In the month of August of the year 1935 Congress abandoned the F. E. R. A. and authorized the W.P.A. program.

     This program created projects at the instigation of communities which were reviewed and passed upon by Federal authorities, who in turn released funds for their operation and for the sponsor certain contributions in the form of money, materials, equipment, and personnel.

     In the beginning, W.P.A. employment regulations required payment of a minimum security wage to all persons working on the program, with this wage being paid to all personnel assigned to projects whether or not weather conditions permitted the working of the required number of hours necessary to receive the minimum security wage. All wages were paid on the basis of an established hourly rate for each community and workers were only permitted to work a sufficient number of hours to maintain the minimum security wage. This method of handling employment proved to be unsatisfactory because it still carried with it a reflection of the dole system, caused a low efficiency in operation, and reflected directly upon the quality and type of work accomplished, as well as creating a hostile attitude on the part of the sponsor for the W.P.A. program.

     In the beginning, the sponsoring agencies attempted to design projects for the sole purpose of employing men and women, and with no particular thought being given for worthwhile public improvements which might be obtained with help from the W.P. A. As a result, public improvements of a beneficial nature which might have been obtained from the sponsor’s contributions were largely lacking. Furthermore, due to the confusion and the lack of coordination in the establishing of a community-wide program of beneficial public improvements, sponsor’s operating costs were relatively high for value received. This was particularly true when it is understood that the majority of public agencies were still expending their full amount of funds for necessary public improvements and giving no consideration [p. 80] to the possibilities of handling these public improvements with W.P.A. labor. While it is true that many worthwhile projects were carried through in earlier days of the W.P.A., the general picture in that respect reflected the tendency developed in early days of local relief programs where “made work” was the primary source of employment.

     In comparison, the W. P. A. program now in operation is only remotely akin to the relief program carried out in the beginning of W. P. A. Present administrative and regulative control of W. P. A. has reached a point where the possibilities for cooperation with local communities in the taking over and carrying through to completion worthwhile and necessary public improvements is quite general. Workers are paid a security wage based upon a maximum earning per month and regardless of classification are employed 130 hours per month. Furthermore, workmen are paid only for the number of hours actually worked and must prove themselves competent. With these regulations, most features of the old relief programs for “made work” have disappeared. Local communities have gained confidence in the ability of W. P. A. to do outstanding and beneficial public improvements and are requesting Federal aid for more and more projects of the highest type. Funds formerly spent in toto by the sponsoring agencies in obtaining these improvements are still being spent in this manner with this marked difference, that they are now placed into the W.P.A. program as a sponsor’s contribution, resulting in a greater number of worthwhile improvements being undertaken and completed at no greater cost to the community. Furthermore, working conditions have been improved for local relief personnel at no greater cost than that entailed under the earlier relief dole system or work relief program.

     The W. P. A. today, with the City of Dayton’s intelligent planning and cooperation, is carrying through a program of which a few of the outstanding examples, greatly benefiting the city, may be cited: namely, the development of arterial highways through the McCook Field area together with the installation of sewage, drainage, and water facilities to take care of, and prepare for, the Federal Housing development now in progress: the repaving of Germantown Street, East Monument Avenue, Washington Street, Springfield Street, Linden Avenue, Fairview Avenue, South Brown Street, Lorain Avenue, Salem Avenue, and many others, making them modern thoroughfares in every respect; a great number of dirt alleys have [p. 81] have been paved with concrete, eliminating unsightly and unsanitary conditions; the replacing of dangerous sidewalk and curb throughout the city; the building of shelters and the general improvement to the various parks and playgrounds throughout the city; the necessary additions to the Sewage Treatment Plant whereby the city was saved approximately $1,000,000.00; the laying out of many miles of water lines for the better distribution of water to the householder; and many other truly worthwhile projects which are a far cry from the olden days of leaf raking.

     The greatest contributing factor to this evolution of the relief program can be directly laid to the present day better understanding between community and W. P. A. officials, coupled with the setting up, by most communities, of the necessary machinery for the closer cooperation and better planning of a program from the standpoint of beneficial projects and their relation to employment given and maximum benefits received from expenditures by the community.

     The W.P.A. today can truly be called a Public Works Program. [p. 82]

 


This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1940

 

Why Policewomen?

By

LULU B. SOLLERS

 

Supervisor of Policewomen

 

BECAUSE-more than thirty years ago many communities recognized the need for the services of women in the courts and police departments in handling cases of women and children. Civic-minded people began to realize the gap which existed between the police and private agencies. They knew this gap must be bridged if, in the future, any headway was to be made against delinquency and crime.

     Throughout these years it has been found that trained policewomen can and do furnish this connecting link. Speaking as they do, the social worker’s language and that of  the police, they can create through mutual understanding that close cooperation so necessary to the community.

     The work of the policewomen runs the whole gamut of human experience from humor to pathos and tragedy. To those who understand it, the policewomen’s service seems quite simple, but to the average citizens it seems quite complex. Despite the fact that Dayton has had a Policewomen’s Bureau for more than 25 years, the people still know little of the nature of [p. 100] the work. To bring to them a clearer understanding they are meeting small where their methods and motives are explained and discussed.

     Policewomen, according to practice, are assigned by the Chief of Police, primarily, to deal with situations involving women and children. Their work is preventive in so far as they aid in clearing up possible sources of danger. It is protective in dealing with individuals who need warning and guidance. When it becomes necessary to arrest for offense committed, they perform the police function of protecting the community’ and after women and children are taken into custody, they are often responsible for giving them special protective service until their cases are disposed of. Because a policewoman is a deterring influence, she may be an uncomfortable person to have around town. The objective of a properly organized and conducted Women’s Bureau is as asset to the community. This objective may be obtained in two ways. One is, by discouraging the things that make a bad social atmosphere; and the other is, by counsel and guidance.

     While their function has been defined as that of dealing with all cases where women and children are involved either as offenders or victims of offense, they are working on all manner of human frailty and trying to shape them for the betterment of the community.

     The City of Dayton has a Policewomen’s Bureau consisting of one supervisor, five policewomen and one stenographer working continuously and untiringly in the behalf of Dayton. [p. 101]