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Public Works Administration

From Ohio History Central

On June 13, 1933, the United States Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). The NIRA was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Roosevelt hoped that his New Deal would allow Americans to cope with the Great Depression, would help end the current economic downturn, and would help prevent another depression from occurring in the future.

The NIRA had three components to it. One portion of the NIRA created the Public Works Administration (PWA). Under this part of the act, the federal government was to provide 3.3 billion dollars to hire Americans to work on public works projects. Between 1933 and 1939, the PWA participated in approximately thirty-four thousand projects. These projects ranged from sidewalks, to school buildings, to dams. During this six-year period, the PWA helped construct seventy percent of new school buildings, one-third of the new hospitals, and two aircraft carriers. The PWA also constructed more than twenty-five thousand housing units to provide shelter for homeless Americans. Many of the new school buildings and other projects were located in Ohio and provided thousands of workers, including Ohioans, with employment. In 1941, the federal government ended the PWA.

During the Great Depression, millions of Americans were unemployed. Historians generally conclude that the Public Works Administration failed to meet its wider goal of providing jobs to all American workers seeking employment. This is true, but the PWA also provided a sense of self-worth to American workers who attained jobs through the program. Rather than just receiving a government handout, these workers felt that they were contributing to the United States and earning an honest and valuable living.

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