What to me was of outstanding interest here is the way the unemployed are behaving about relief. The workers on the whole are “hard babies,” the living conditions are bad, the struggle for existence has been terrible even before the depression, but the place is to a certain extent a yardstick of behavior in depressed, deflated conditions….I spent a day visiting homes with investigators. They tell me that relief is actually raising standards in some of these shack lives. One of the leading doctors told me that medical care in the City was now better than it had ever been before. In the homes that I visited less than 25 per cent were “unemployables.” All, except a very few, asked for clothing or other articles such as a new stove, that neighbors had received from relief. I certainly had a feeling that few would choose to stay on relief but there was little feeling that it was a painful process to ask for relief.

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As one investigator said, “The workers in Detroit used to run up debts between employment,–run a rent up for several months, owe a grocery bill for several months and borrow on the furniture. They don’t do that any more. When their money is exhausted they come to relief.” While several men said to me with evident satisfaction that they had no debts, others pointed out that the grocers and landlords no longer feeling so optimistic about the economic possibilities of their debtors will not extend credit as they used to.

An old Ford worker said, “I used to be able to pick up odd jobs such as washing cars. My wife did, too, then. We used to worry along.” A Chevrolet man said “Each year my savings grew lean and less until now I am at rock bottom.” These men are both applying for relief for the first time this Fall. They expect to get jobs by the first of the year if not before.

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First let us review the past. Before the Social Security Act was passed, most of the states had what was called Mothers’ Aid laws or Widows’ Pensions. The effect of the Social Security Act was that the legislatures revised and broadened their laws because they had to comply with the more liberal provisions of the Social Security Act.
The difference between the old laws for assistance to dependent children and the Social Security law is that in order to get the money, the assistance must be made statewide. In the past, the assistance was not statewide, and one city or county would give assistance here and there.

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Berry Picking and Relief

On April 9, 2014 By

Public relief affords no real security. The family on relief cannot meet its actual minimum needs. If private employment can offer more, we send it men. But we can hardly abandon our people to industry or agriculture which offers them less than relief. Employers will have no difficulty in getting or keeping labor if they can guarantee a certain and adequate wage and decent conditions. The relief client and his family are not lolling on the fat of the land on $7.50 a week.

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In the first days of hope for an early strike settlement, it seemed that the regular staff of the relief organization might be able to “absorb” the extra load. But as soon as the first peace parley failed the scene took on a different color. On that day, the office swarmed with applicants for relief; many could not be taken care of at all; facilities were inadequate; feelings were tense.

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Old Age Pensions

On July 24, 2013 By

“…We can hardly be happy knowing that throughout this country so many fine citizens who have done all that they could for their young people must end their days divided–for they usually are divided in the poorhouse. Old people love their own things even more than young people do. It means so much to sit in the same old chair you sat in for a great many years, to see the same picture that you always looked at!

And that is what an old age security law will do. It will allow the old people to end their days in happiness, and it will take the burden from the younger people who often have all the struggle that they can stand. It will end a bitter situation–bitter for the old people because they hate to be a burden on the young, and bitter for the young because they would like to give gladly but find themselves giving grudgingly and bitterly because it is taking away from what they need for the youth that is coming and is looking to them for support. For that reason I believe that this bill will be a model bill and pass without any opposition this year.”

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Model Ordinance

On July 12, 2012 By

This Model Ordinance was developed by Leroy Allen Halbert, General Superintendent of the Kansas City Board of Public Welfare for eight years. During that time, he helped formulate plans for how other cities, counties and states could organize their own Boards of Public Welfare. For example, in a presentation to officials in Topeka, Kansas in the Spring of 1912, he said: “…small towns could not afford to have a full time trained social worker and that the proper unit for handling welfare problems for the small communities was the county and urged that probation work, truancy work, relief work, etc. should all be concentrated in the hands of a good trained social worker.”

This Model Ordinance as one of the tools he developed to assist in the creation of local departments of public welfare.

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At the end of 1928, after six years of agitation, there were only six states and one territory which had made provision for their aged. They were Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Wisconsin and Alaska. All the state laws were of the optional type, i.e., they left the adoption or rejection of an old age assistance system to the discretion of the counties. For this reason these laws had very limited effect only.

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From the earliest colonial times, local villages and towns recognized an obligation to aid the needy when family effort and assistance provided by neighbors and friends were not sufficient. This aid was carried out through the poor relief system and almshouses or workhouses. Gradually, measures were adopted to provide aid on a more organized basis, usually through cash allowances to certain categories among the poor. Mothers’ pension laws, which made it possible for children without paternal support to live at home with their mothers rather than in institu­tions or foster homes, were adopted in a number of States even before World War I. In the mid-twenties, a few States began to experiment with old-age assistance and aid to the blind.

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Care of the Aged Poor

On June 26, 2012 By

The remedy for the real evil which the commission’s report shows (such extreme dread of poverty as still remains) is, I believe, to be found in a continuance of our progress in making relief both sufficient and humane. We must entirely abolish the old idea, already largely abolished, of treating a dependent person as a pauper. The old practice, the old words, the old attitude, all constitute the evil which modern measures try to abolish. For the last six years I have stricken the word “pauper” from every one of our hundreds of departmental forms which has come up for reprinting. We need an amendment to our statutes which will entirely eliminate the word “pauper.” It is an obsolete word except in the law.

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