Public Works Administration Projects

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Reeves (1973) argues that the competitive theory of administration used by Roosevelt proved to be inefficient and produced delays. The competition over the size of expenditure, the selection of the administrator, and the appointment of staff at the state level, led to delays and to the ultimate failure of PWA as a recovery instrument. As director of the budget, Lewis Douglas overrode the views of leading senators in reducing appropriations to $3. 5 billion and in transferring much of that money to other agencies in lieu of their own specific appropriations. The cautious and penurious Ickes won out over the more imaginative Hugh S. Johnson as chief of public works administration. Political competition between rival Democratic state organizations and between Democrats and Progressive Republicans led to delays in implementing PWA efforts on the local level. Ickes instituted quotas for hiring skilled and unskilled black people in construction financed through the Public Works Administration (PWA). Resistance from employers and unions was partially overcome by negotiations and implied sanctions. Although results were ambiguous, the plan helped provide African Americans with employment, especially among unskilled workers.