Federal Legislation results in a better quality of life for North Carolina
In July 1932, Federal legislation empowering the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was enacted and the Corporation was authorized to make available the sum of $300,000,000.00 to aid the several States and Territories. This act provided for payments to the governors of the several states, after application had been made and approved. The Federal funds were made available in the early fall of 1932, the states having full control of expenditures of the funds advanced to them, and full responsibility for determining policies best adapted to the varying local conditions. During the winter of 1932 and 1933, millions of people, suddenly thrown out of employment through the rapid failure of banks, industrial and business plants, were facing starvation.
Following his inauguration, President Roosevelt, in his message to Congress, on March 21, 1933, presented his plans for an expanded and unified program of unemployment relief. These plans included a broad public works program with the double objective of giving needed employment, and the conservation and development of the country's natural resources. The President's recommendations resulted in the immediate passage of CCC legislation, on March 31, 1933, and the Federal Emergency Relief Act on May 12, 1933.
The Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, was designed to provide employment for unemployed young men, and the CCC program became one of the most profitable activities among those in which the Federal Government was engaged. The Corps was engaged in the construction, maintenance and carrying on of works of a public nature in connection with the forestation of land belonging to the United States or to the several States which were suitable for timber production, the prevention of forest fires, floods and soil erosion, plant pest and disease control, the construction, maintenance or repair of paths, trails and firelanes in the national parks and national forests, etc. The first enrollment for CCC camps was in April 1933. The quota for North Carolina was 6,500. An additional quota of 1,150 was received in May. North Carolina was the first state to complete the enrollment.
The Federal Emergency Relief Act created the authorizing body of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which assumed, under the act, responsibility for the distribution of Federal relief funds and for the coordination of relief activities in the various states. The sum of $500,000,000.00, later augmented by an additional $950,000,000.00, was put at the disposal of this authority to assist the states in meeting relief costs and to permit more adequate standards of relief. Beginning in July 1933, as a combination work and direct relief program, it soon became apparent that measures to accelerate actual employment were necessary, so the CWA, a strictly works program, was inaugurated by Executive Order of the President on November 9, 1933.
The goal of the Civil Works Administration was to employ any men willing to work at a wage that they could feed their families on. After four months of operation of the CWA, President Roosevelt made the decision to discontinue it and to absorb its activities in the work program of ERA. CWA was discontinued on March 31, 1934, and its activities were absorbed in the expanded Emergency Relief Administration. Full administrative control of the work program was returned from Federal authority under CWA to the State Relief Administration. The primary objective of the ERA was that of providing subsistence as a temporary means of relief for distressed persons. Under the expanded program, it became a long-range program for the rehabilitation of persons in rural areas and stranded populations, and to provide work for the unemployed through a comprehensive program of conservation of our natural resources and promotion of public works and professional services not in competition with private industry. On January 4, 1935, the President addressed Congress on the State of the Nation, out-lining plans for further reorganization of the Emergency Relief Program which message resulted in the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935.
Congress passed the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935, and plans for reorganizing the relief activities divorcing the work program from relief slowly took shape. Two new Federal agencies were created to take over two major programs of ERA as Federal programs, the Works Progress Administration to absorb the works program, and the Resettlement Administration to take over Rural Rehabilitation. Under competent supervision of the work program, results of permanent value to North Carolina were realized in the construction of public buildings, highways, bridges, drainage and sanitation, conservation of natural resources, recreational facilities, etc. The work program under both CWA and ERA included every type of work from making garments in sewing rooms, and mattress making, to heavy construction, such as airports, reservoirs, schools, county homes, community houses, sewerage disposal systems, parks, graveled and hard-surfaced roads, in addition to research and survey projects. Many if not most of these projects would not have been possible without the availability of the funds made accessible through the RFC, CWA, ERA, and WPA legislation.
Department of Conservation and Development, 1937-1973 (215 boxes), Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC
Emergency Relief Administration, 1932-1940 (230 boxes), Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC
General Assembly Session Records, 1709-1979 (1,561 boxes), Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC
N.C. Highway Commission, 1920-1983 (240 boxes), Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC Photograph Collection, Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC
Poster Collection, Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC
Works Progress Administration, 1936-1942 (119 boxes), Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC
Annie L. O'Berry, Emergency Relief in North Carolina (NC: Presses of Edwards & Broughton Company, 1936)