Franklin D. Roosevelt

White House Statement on Relief for the Unemployed.

February 28, 1934

The experience of the past nine months has shown that the problem of unemployment must be faced on more than one front:

Coincident with the plans' for the demobilization of Civil Works has been the development of a program to meet the peculiar needs of three separate and distinct groups in want through no fault of their own.

It has been found that these three groups fall into the following classifications:

(1) Distressed families in rural areas.

(2) Those composing "stranded populations," i.e., living in single-industry communities in which there is no hope of future reemployment, such as miners in worked-out fields.

(3) The unemployed in large cities.

The Administration will be guided by these groupings in expending the $950,000,000 recently appropriated by Congress.

The care of needy persons in rural areas is a problem quite distinct and apart from that of the industrial unemployed. Their security must be identified with agriculture. They must be placed in positions of self-support. In many parts of the country this calls for a change from commercial farming and dependence upon a single cash crop, to the raising of the various commodities needed to maintain the family.

Relief funds, therefore, will be expended on behalf of rural families in a manner and to an extent that will enable them to achieve self-support. Work for wages from relief funds is not an essential part of this phase of the program and will be provided only insofar as it is necessary to accomplish the primary objective. No encouragement of an extension of competitive farming is contemplated, but rather the placing of thousands of persons, who have made their living from agriculture, into a relationship with the soil that will provide them a security they do not now enjoy.

Some of the methods to be employed include building, or rebuilding, to provide adequate farm homes; providing seed and stock for other than commercial purposes, and furnishing opportunities to these workers to earn modest cash incomes through part-time or seasonal employment in small industrial enterprises. There should also be a planned distribution of the regular jobs on highways; in the national and State parks and forests, and other public work prosecuted in agricultural communities.

The plan calls for complete cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, and with the State and county agricultural departments throughout the country. It substitutes for direct relief an opportunity to obtain and maintain self-support in an accustomed environment, and completely divorces relief activities in rural areas from those in the cities.

Only a careful survey can determine the number of families included in "stranded populations," but there are sufficient data already collected to indicate a situation of substantial proportions. The solution of the problem of these families involves their physical transplanting, in a large majority of cases, since the areas in which they are concentrated offer neither future employment at wages nor opportunities for self-support through agriculture.

It is planned to explore this difficult situation and, in collaboration with the Subsistence Homesteads Division of the Department of the Interior, and with other Federal and local agencies, to devise and apply definite remedial measures which will affect an appreciable number of these families. These measures will be directed, first, at maintenance on small tracts of land and, then, at the development of supplemental industrial opportunities to provide for a normal standard of living.

The needy unemployed living in cities and towns and who, in the course of coming months, may reasonably look forward to regular jobs, are entitled to, and should receive, insofar as possible, adequate assurance of means to maintain themselves during the balance of the period of their enforced idleness. The Federal Government, both in its relief measures and in its Civil Works program, now nearing completion, has been meeting an emergency situation.

Direct relief as such, whether in the form of cash or relief in kind, is not an adequate way of meeting the needs of able-bodied workers. They very properly insist upon an opportunity to give to the community their services in the form of labor in return for unemployment benefits. The Federal Government has no intention or desire to force either upon the country or the unemployed themselves a system of relief which is repugnant to American ideals of individual self-reliance. Therefore, work programs which would not normally be undertaken by public bodies, but which are at the same time outside of the field of private industry, will be projected and prosecuted in and near industrial communities. Labor on those projects will not be expected of dependent members of the community who are unable to work, but will be confined to those needy unemployed who can give adequate return for the unemployment benefits which they receive.

Work will be given to an individual for a period not to exceed six months. This is in order that it may not be considered, or utilized, as a permanent method of support. It will be administered by and under the direction of those responsible for the unemployment relief activities in industrial communities.

Every effort will be made to continue opportunities for work for the professional groups in need—teachers, engineers, architects, artists, nurses, and others.

This program expresses a conviction that industrial workers who are unemployed and in need of relief should be given an opportunity for livelihood by the prosecution of a flexible program of public works. The several States will be aided, as the Federal relief law provides, in the financing of this enterprise.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, White House Statement on Relief for the Unemployed. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives