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Work Relief Administration Press Conferences
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Press Conference
Harry Hopkins
January 9, 1936
4:00 P.M.


Query:

How about Mr. Pinchot. How do you feel about him?

Mr. Hopkins:

Is this for publication? I really have not seen what the ex-Governor has said.

Query:

I did not read carefully what he said. The first time he was awfully mad.

Mr. Hopkins:

That is no new experience.

Query:

Is Mr. Jones going right on as WPA Administrator?

Mr. Hopkins:

Sure.

Query:

The Saturday Evening Post has a story that one out of every seven on relief is an alien.

Mr. Hopkins:

I am sure that is incorrect. I do not know where anybody could ever find that out.

Query:

There is no question that a large percentage are aliens.

Mr. Hopkins:

Yes, there is a great question.

Query:

Is there any reason why we should not do it?

Mr. Hopkins:

The law says we must take care of everybody, Aliens are not excluded from the law. That is up to Congress to decide.

Query:

You think it is an immigration matter rather than a relief questions?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think that is the intent of Congress as to how they want relief administered.

Query:

Having let them in, don't they become an obligation?

Mr. Hopkins:

Sure.

Query:

Is the number the same as the general proportion of the population?

Mr. Hopkins:

I would have a hunch that the number of aliens on relief is less. One reason I believe is that there are many State laws that if an alien gets on relief, he is subject to deportation, and they keep away from the relief office. Certainly any figure of one to seven is ridiculous.

Query:

What about the loyalty oaths in New York?

Mr. Hopkins:

There is no such thing. Anyone belonging to the Federal Government has to sign an oath of office and it is not a matter of discretion with anybody. Either you sign or you don't get paid, and all sign.

Query:

Could you make a general statement with reference to the success achieved in persuading States to assume their old burden of taking care of the unemployables?

Mr. Hopkins:

I can make a general statement on that; the States, cities and counties are providing the funds to take care of the unemployables and the balance of the relief load, whatever it is. The most recent indication of that is the special session just called in Illinois to provide immediate funds for relief; nobody questions (using Illinois as an example) that Illinois can provide for them. I never questioned the fact that Illinois would. Funds are available in the nation as a whole to take care of the unemployables, There are some spots where the numbers are not great where those funds have not been provided, I know of no place where they cannot be provided, and I think just because a State refuses to do it is no reason why the Government should do it.

Query:

There is no reason then to anticipate that the relief appropriation for the 1937 fiscal year will include direct relief?

Mr. Hopkins:

Now you are getting into something I do not want to discuss.

Query:

Why is it that the Administration is not in a position some two months hence to make an estimate?

Mr. Hopkins:

We probably will know more two months from now about the need for 1936 and 1937. It just seems a natural thing to do to make that decision at the time that you know more about the numbers; you know more about the number of employables in need. Obviously, you gain new facts every day in this thing.

Query:

Will you know as the result of your current reports, or will there be another nation-wide appraisal prior to the estimate on which the next appropriation will be based?

Mr. Hopkins:

There will be no new special nation-wide appraisal. We pick up information all the time.

Query:

In spite of your statement that the nation is able to take care of the difference between unemployables and the people you have been putting to work, there are lots of reports coming in here about people going hungry.

Mr. Hopkins:

Now, when you say there are lots of reports coming in here, it all depends on what they are. You might say we are getting reports in here from Illinois. We did get one from Illinois, for instance. We are told that the relief would be shut down January 15th. That appeared in the paper in spite of the fact that at the time Illinois had one and a half million and should have from that time on, in spite of the fact that the people that control the legislature in Illinois knew that funds were available for relief.

Query:

Do you think there are very few people hungry?

Mr. Hopkins:

Yes, I think in the country as a whole the relief problem is going to be better met this winter than any winter since we have been in operation.

Query:

Why?

Mr. Hopkins:

Because of our work program.

Query:

In the case of an employable person on relief in May, to whom you have given a job—suppose the job is very shortly completed, do you give him another job?

Mr. Hopkins:

Yes.

Query:

I am asking that because Quoddy has 3,600 on relief and is finishing certain housing jobs.

Mr. Hopkins:

We move right back to WPA. Obviously on these big PWA jobs, a bricklayer may get six weeks, but we give him preferred status for WPA.

Query:

How many do you have at work now?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think it is 3,541,000.

Query:

Would there be any matter of a lag between the closing of one job and obtaining the next?

Mr. Hopkins:

We are going to try not to have that happen. That is one of the things we have to do—to tie up tightly so that a fellow who gets a temporary job won't lose time, which causes suffering. Suppose a fellow gets an offer of a job for thirty days—we want him to take that job. We will give him preferred status when he comes back.

Query:

Then the trouble is that the inability, of tile locality to take care of the problem is mechanical rather than due to the fact that they cannot raise cash. Do you have any finance expert to check up what the situation is in those cases—I mean where they say they cannot take care of unemployables?

Mr. Hopkins:

No, we explored all that before we adopted this new policy.

Query:

Do you regard turning back relief to the States, municipalities and counties as a permanent policy?

Mr. Hopkins:

Of course you have to be careful about the language you use about turning back relief. Then you take into consideration the number of people to whom we pay wages, you relieve the community of those. To that extent the Government is in it. Secondly, under the Social Security Act, there are many thousands on these relief rolls who will be eligible for benefits under that Act. The Government shares in that. My own feeling is that it is through the Social Security Act that we should look forward in years to come to the type of benefit for old people, unemployables, dependent children and the vast majority of families and people in need that we speak of as unemployables and who are the problem of the cities and States. Actually, they are going to come under the tent of the Social Security Act and in my opinion it is altogether desirable.

Query:

How will you meet your problem if the Supreme Court throws out the Social Security Act, as they are likely to?

Mr. Hopkins:

Now, now...

Query:

You are not making any estimate now. You want to wait a while because you are not sure how long these three and one-half million jobs will last.

Mr. Hopkins:

That is not the reason.

Query:

What is the reason?

Mr. Hopkins:

The reason is you have to get an appropriation to meet the problem next year.

Query:

Then there will be a large relief appropriation next year?

Mr. Hopkins:

I don't want to put in adjectives. I cannot tell anything about that appropriation. The President announced that very specifically in his message.

Query:

May we ask you a technical question? The President said that you are carrying over one billion three hundred million which could be used for relief. Now do they have to appropriate further funds to pay off the AAA contracts?

Mr. Hopkins:

I do not want to go into that.

Query:

Inasmuch as there will be no new funds for PWA, is it likely that the work relief program will be extended to include projects of more or less the type that Mr. Ickes has had in his hands?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think you have been doing some very inexpert guessing.

Query:

Have you reached any way in which to take care of these people who will be coming on relief rolls after November 1st?

Mr. Hopkins:

Yes, but obviously this thing has got to be liquidated so that we can adjust it up and down in these winter months. We will have more people getting benefits than in the spring. In a State like Mississippi, for instance, historically the curve is upwards in December, January and February and comes down sharply. We adjust our program to that.

Query:

Have you not been refusing jobs to people who come on after November 1st?

Mr. Hopkins:

Well, I don't think you can use the word that we "refuse" jobs. We are adjusting our program every day in the light of the realism of the situation in a city or a community on the merits of the case.

Query:

Can you tell us if there was any appreciable proportion of the relief load taken over by the AAA benefits which will now come back on you?

Mr. Hopkins:

Well, obviously, there were some, but I would not care to estimate how large that was.

Query:

Have you any plans for meeting that situation by new rural projects?

Mr. Hopkins:

I am not disturbed about it.

Query:

How are you coming out on paying these people now?

Mr. Hopkins:

Fine.

Query:

Has it speeded up?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think so. They are paid much more promptly and regularly,

Query:

How much of your present work relief includes veterans?

Mr. Hopkins:

I cannot answer because the law makes no distinction between veterans and others. Our records have never included the number of veterans on relief in the total number. We have some opinions on that subject.

Query:

Would you anticipate if the bonus were paid immediately that your burdens will be lightened considerably?

Mr. Hopkins:

The difficulty would be in the wording "considerably". Obviously, it will be lightened. There will be people that will get the bonus that will not need any work benefit. I would not want to estimate now the number of those although our office has the number.

Query:

Would you automatically question the relief Status of any person who received the bonus?

Mr. Hopkins:

Obviously.

Query:

You any your office knows how many veterans there are?

Mr. Hopkins:

No, we have an estimate.

Query:

Why not make it public?

Mr. Hopkins:

I have some doubts about it.

Query:

Is it in dollars or numbers?

Mr. Hopkins:

In numbers.

Query:

Could you give us a general figure?

Mr. Hopkins:

I do not want to give any estimate.

Query:

Is there some time in the future when you could?

Mr. Hopkins:

I do not want to say at the moment.

Query:

Has General Hines a figure on that?

Mr. Hopkins:

I cannot answer.

Query:

Did you give Governor Curley any satisfaction on this strike problem?

Mr. Hopkins:

That is not a problem that concerns us, at all. It is a problem between contractors, the unemployed and the United States Employment Service. Our relations provide that the contractor may go to the unions to draw his men. That has nothing to do with the 90-10% of relief.

Query:

Do you take the position that if the local union does not supply the necessary number of men, the additional men should be provided from the work relief rolls?

Mr. Hopkins:

I am not sure I know what the problem is in Massachusetts. One thing I hear is—Can a union go outside of the town where the project in going on? Our regulations are explicit on this point and so far as we are concerned, the contractor is authorized to go to the union if it is the customary way to get men.

Query:

One objection seems to be from the local people that the contractors have been going outside the district to fill up.

Mr. Hopkins:

Well, that presents a real problem.

Query:

To go back to this question: The amendment to the work relief bill which empowered the President to use part of the four billion to pay the AAA benefits if he so chose—has any thought been considered by this office as to how much it might reduce your carry over?

Mr. Hopkins:

You mean whether it could be done? If Congress authorizes it.

Query:

I mean automatically. Is the amendment so worded that it can be done automatically without Congressional approval?

Mr. Hopkins:

I would not give a snap judgment on that, but I would doubt it very much.

Query:

When you send, a couple of months from now, your estimate on work relief needs, will you consider a comprehensive unemployment situation or only the three and one-half million?

Mr. Hopkins:

I would say we would consider the problem of need in this country.

Query:

Going back to the Social Security program—it has to be emphasized in your phrase years to "years to come", isn't that so? I noticed for example that Governor Peery of Virginia in his message to the legislature postpones for two years the Old Age Pension legislation.

Mr. Hopkins:

There is another Board that runs that now. I must be careful what I say.

Query:

You say you do not expect any considerable proportion of the relief load within the year 1936 will be taken care of?

Mr. Hopkins:

I certainly do.

Query:

How large a proportion?

Mr. Hopkins:

I would not want to indicate now.

Query:

What States have?

Mr. Hopkins:

Lots of States.

Query:

Under the Old Age assistance of the Act, you have about 38 or 39 States who do not all comply with the Act.

Mr. Hopkins:

Now you are getting me into the question of that Board and what constitutes compliance. I think there will be compliance. I am not worried about that.

Query:

Of this total working, how many of those are WPA?

Mr. Hopkins:

2,792,745 on the 4th of January.

Query:

The other figures are not ready, Can you tell us whether they have declined?

Mr. Hopkins:

The CCC may have declined, I cannot tell you that yet. The total for December 29th was 3,541,284 on the whole business.

Query:

That WPA?

Mr. Hopkins:

On December 28th, it was 2,755,639.

Query:

How many did you have on this list when you started this work relief program?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think that figure is around somewhere. I will give you the exact figure.

Query:

Once you said there was five hundred million in the cities and States to take care of the unemployables for the present fiscal year. Can you estimate how much money would be needed to take care of it?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think that is substantially enough.

Query:

We understood that five hundred million was already provided?

Mr. Hopkins:

You do not get this five or six hundred million distributed absolutely uniformly. You have it in New York and Pennsylvania for instance and a higher ratio of funds in one State and not the other. Mr. Hopkins The figures for January, 1935, are 2,472,000. For December, 1934, 2,324,000.

Query:

Are some of these included in your newest totals?

Mr. Hopkins:

Some of these same individuals? You get a turnover.

Query:

If they are not included, where are they7

Mr. Hopkins:

At work in private industry. This does not remain static. Lots of them are the same people.

Query:

Have you any estimate as to how many have gone back to private industry?

Mr. Hopkins:

No.

Query:

Do you know anything about New York on that?

Mr. Hopkins:

No.

Query:

Those old figures did not include CCC or PWA or anything.

Mr. Hopkins:

That is right.

Query:

You have increased about one million since the January, 1935, figures?

Mr. Hopkins:

On the total, yes. Mr. Hopkins: The file for May, 1935, is 2,228,000.

Query:

Getting back to New York on signing the official oath of office, Have you found out why people don't want to sign?

Mr. Hopkins:

As I understand its nobody has any discretion in the matter. If they do not sign, they do not work.

Query:

There is a report persisting in Maryland about Mr. Dryden going to become a regional director with offices at Philadelphia. Mr. Dryden won't speak yet.

Mr. Hopkins:

It is true.

Query:

When?

Mr. Hopkins:

Probably the 15th of January.

Query:

Is this being followed out, elsewhere too?

Mr. Hopkins:

No, Mr. Dryden is going on our staff.

Query:

Who is going to take his place in Maryland?

Mr. Hopkins:

I do not know.

Query:

Isn't there a difference between the old work relief figures and these? The old figures report part-time employment.

Mr. Hopkins:

Yes, the old figures include everybody, no matter if it was only for a few days.

Query:

The new figures are not the same thing?

Mr. Hopkins:

No, full time.

Query:

What do you consider full time?

Mr. Hopkins:

A minimum of 120 hours, average for the country.

Query:

I have heard that some States have to supplement the wages of WPA workers because the security wage is not high enough to take care of their families.

Mr. Hopkins:

I don't think that stands up. Then I assume that the Relief Administrators throughout the country should supplement the wages of everyone who isn't earning enough money. Are you going to budget everybody in America who has a job and say that if paid more than in private industry, we will give relief? There is no more reason for the relief agency to do it than to supplement this.

Query:

You did supplement the wages of private workers in the past, didn't you?

Mr. Hopkins:

I know it was done, but never as a matter of policy. If we are going to use the relief machinery of the nation to supplement the wages of private industry, I think that is a terrible thing.

Query:

Do you have anything to do with the distribution of surplus supplies now?

Mr. Hopkins:

No, we have a lot to do in the locals. We have a project in many districts to do that, Mr. Davis is President of the corporation, not me.

Query:

Would you expand on this situation that you described as a terrible thing?

Mr. Hopkins:

I should never use adjectives.

Query:

I mean, state your reasons a little bit to the effect that it would depress private wages.

Mr. Hopkins:

If it was a matter of policy around the nation, then chiseling employers would get the Relief to supplement their wages? Which would be a terrible thing.

Query:

That is specifically the complaint that one of the Governors makes; that the WPA is chiseling because they have to add to WPA to keep the families going.

Mr. Hopkins:

His argument does not hold water, In the first place, I would like to know how many dollars are put up to supplement WPA wages. I bet it is not enough money to put in one hand. They talk about this a lot, but when you get down to the amount of money, it is very little. Personally, I question the whole policy.

Query:

Do you know of any case where the locality has not been able to get acceptable projects to get employable people to work?

Mr. Hopkins:

Not many, and that is clearing up very rapidly now.

Query:

Are there any sections where the relief rolls show you can reduce the number of projects?

Mr. Hopkins:

There are places in the country where we know that we have every employable person on the relief rolls at work and where the number is not as large as we thought it was going to be, but it varies in various parts of the nation.

Query:

It might be interpreted from your statement a little while ago that relief is in better shape, that you are sitting pretty.

Mr. Hopkins:

I would not use the term "sitting pretty" on any relief business.

Query:

I mean why are you in better shape?

Mr. Hopkins:

I think the benefit that these three and one-half million people are getting, assuming they were all getting relief last winter, is larger in terms of dollars. That is a substantially larger benefits and I think the money that is going into this work program, plus the money going for direct relief is a sum of money larger than was available a year ago. I think the people on relief and in need are getting better care than they got a year ago, and I think the reason is the work program provides better benefits not only in money but on other fronts.

Query:

Is it more expensive?

Mr. Hopkins:

Of course it is.

Query:

Have you any idea how much it costs to employ a man on WPA?

Mr. Hopkins:

Yes, it costs the Federal Government less than $65 a month on the average in the nation as a whole.

Query:

That includes material?

Mr. Hopkins:

Everything. Funds that the Federal Government puts up for the nation as a whole—less than $65 a month.

At this point the conference adjourned.

Reported by:
Miss Valenza
Mrs. Bonaventura

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