Franklin D. Roosevelt

Statement on Signing a Work Relief Bill.

June 30, 1939

This is another main appropriation bill for the fiscal year beginning tomorrow, July first. It comes to me from the Congress at 10 P.M. on June 30th.

Obviously I cannot withhold my signature and thereby stop work relief for the needy unemployed.

The bill contains, however, a number of provisions which will work definite hardship and inequality on more than two million American citizens—about eight million if we count in their families—people who through no fault of their own are in dire need. I call attention to some of the hardships imposed by this bill:

(a) It requires that security wages in different localities shall not be varied in greater degree than is justified by differences in the cost of living. But the same provision also requires that the current national average security wage shall be maintained. The net result of this will probably impose a reduction in security wages in northern and western areas, and a corresponding rise in that portion of the nation which has a warmer climate.

(b) A requirement that project workers (excepting Veterans) who have been continuously employed on projects for more than eighteen months shall be laid off for thirty days. The Senate amendment which allowed the exercise of some discretion in the case of families in dire need, was stricken out at the insistence of the House conferees.

(c) Administrative expenses are limited to 3.4 per cent. This is about the same percentage as overhead has been costing this year, but because the total of the relief appropriation has been cut by over half a billion dollars, it is obvious that the overhead for the smaller sum will be higher on a percentage basis than the overhead for the larger sum—that is if equal efficiency is to be maintained.

(d) The Federal Theater project is abolished. This singles out a special group of professional people for a denial of work in their own profession. It is discrimination of the worst type. I have not objected to the provision that a portion of the cost of projects for artists, musicians and writers should be paid for by local Governments and sponsored by them, and the same provision could well have been applied to theater projects. The House conferees declined to yield to the Senate and we have, as a result, an entering wedge of legislation against a specific class in the community.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement on Signing a Work Relief Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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