The Civil Works Administration was established by the New Deal during the Great Depression to create jobs for millions of unemployed. The jobs were merely temporary, for the duration of the hard winter. Harry L. Hopkins was put in charge of the organization. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled the CWA on November 8, 1933.
The CWA was a project created under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). In order to increase the benefits, another program was needed and the CWA was set up along with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a.k.a. the CCC.
The CWA created construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on March 31, 1934, under the advice of Lewis Douglas, after costing $200 million a month. So much was spent on this administration because it hired 4 million people and was mostly concerned with paying high wages.
The CWA's four million workers laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or improved 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America). The program was praised by Alf Landon, who later ran against Roosevelt in the 1936 election.
Representative of the work are one county's worthy accomplishments in less than five months, from November 1933 to March 1934, in Grand Forks County, North Dakota. It put 2,392 unemployed workers on its payroll at a cost of about $250,000. When the CWA began in eastern North Dakota, it could hire only 480 workers out of 1,500 who registered for jobs. Projects undertaken included work on city utility systems, public buildings, parks, and roads. Rural areas profited, with most labor being directed to roads and community schools. CWA officials gave preference to veterans with dependents, but considerable political favoritism determined which North Dakotans got jobs.
Although the CWA provided much employment there were many who criticized it for its expensiveness and limited effects. Over the course of its five month run, it spent over a billion dollars, although initial plans projected a maximum cost of $400,000,000. Al Smith and Harold Ickes were two main protesters, and it is much from their objection that the CWA was ended in March 1934.
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