News & Blog

Could a new WPA help employ thousands today?

How can we avoid sinking into another Great Depression? Unbound author Heather Boushey suggests we must mobilize our growing army of furloughed workers on behalf public health. But how do we do that? She says to look to how #FrancesPerkins created the Works Progress Administration to help us through the last one…

Unemployed and furloughed workers could help to fight the virus without even putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19.


From her earliest days in the Roosevelt cabinet, Frances Perkins was a forceful advocate for massive public works programs to bring the nation’s unemployed back to work. Within a month of Roosevelt’s inauguration, Congress enacted legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps, which Roosevelt asked Perkins to implement. Roosevelt also asked her to present a plan for an emergency relief program, and she delivered a young social worker from New York named Harry Hopkins who had visited Frances in Washington with his own proposal. That proposal became embodied in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which Hopkins led. Before Roosevelt presented his final One Hundred Days legislation to the Congress, the National Industrial Recovery Act, Perkins convinced him to allocate $3.3 billion for public works from the moneys appropriated. Serving as a member of the Special Board for Public Works, Perkins helped to ensure that money was spent on socially useful projects: schools, roads, highway, housing projects and post offices. Public works construction employed a many as 1.5 – 2 million people in 1934.  READ MORE


More Posts

cropped Frances and Faith icon

April 2024 FPC E-Newsletter

To appreciate thoroughly the life and
accomplishments of Frances Perkins, a great agent
of social change who served as Secretary of Labor
throughout FDR’s tenure, requires recognizing that
faith was the foundation of who she was and all that
she did.

Fall 2023 FPC Newsletter

Passing the torch. Michael Chaney Ends a Decade as Executive Director, 2014–2023, FPC Welcomes Giovanna Gray Lockhart as Executive Director, July 2023.