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Letter Against Limitations on Federal Financial Participation in Work Projects.

May 20, 1940

My dear Mr. Cannon:

My attention has been called to Section 11 of the House Joint Resolution 544 now under consideration in the House of Representatives, which provides for funds for the Work Projects Administration for the Fiscal year 1941. Section 11 in general prohibits the expenditure of these funds on any project for the construction of any building, bridge, viaduct, stadium, underpass, tunnel or other structure, if the total estimated cost in the case of a Federal project exceeds $50,000, or if the portion of the total estimated cost payable from Federal funds in the case of a non-Federal project exceeds $50,000.

The report of the Committee on Appropriations concerning this Section merely states:

It is believed that this is a sound limitation, for the joint resolution is designed to give work relief and it has been demonstrated that the larger the structure the lower the proportion of relief labor used on it. The Administrator of Work Projects informs me that the proportion of relief labor on large construction projects is in many cases greater than on small projects, and, furthermore, that the over-all proportion of relief labor on all construction projects now in operation is between 96 and 97 per cent.

The limitation contained in Section 11 would have a disastrous effect upon the construction program of the Work Projects Administration. It would prevent the employment of many needy employable persons at their regular occupations; it would force the operation of numerous small projects of doubtful value with resulting complications in operation and administration; and would prevent the execution of much work that is greatly needed and which would produce results of great public value and benefit.

The limitation would have a particularly harmful effect upon the attempt which is being made to use the program of the Work Projects Administration to further national defense. That Administration during the next year proposes to give preference and priority to projects which have a value from the national defense standpoint, and the prohibition which is contained in Section 11 would operate to prevent the approval and operation of the great bulk of such projects.

In view of the reasons set forth above, it is my opinion that the limitation contained in Section 11 should be removed from House Joint Resolution 544.

Very truly yours,

Honorable Clarence Cannon,

House of Representatives,

Washington, D.C.

P. S. I am reminded that in the first year in which the Government set up relief projects there was a great deal of fun poked at raking leaves, cleaning up parks, etc., and at that time the word "boondoggling" became a part of our political vocabulary. It is true that in those days, when the emergency of relief was great and the machinery new, there was a certain proportion of projects which did not have any particular permanent value.

I think that people who insist on the limitations in Section 11 may, with some justification, be charged with a desire to return to boondoggling.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter Against Limitations on Federal Financial Participation in Work Projects. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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