Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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April 1935


For the years 1933-1935 the federal government made grants to the state through the Federal Emergency Relief Commission or the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission. By 1935 the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission (IERC) was a coterminous agency which acted on behalf of the U.S. government when it expended federal dollars and which served the state when spending Illinois revenue. The state's population had totaled 7,630,654 when it had been counted in 1930.

For the year ending June 30, 1935 the average monthly relief grant was $30.66. For Cook County the amount was $38.66 while for downstate it was $23.34. The federal government allocated Illinois $100,096,928 for relief purposes for calendar year 1935. The state appropriated nearly $36,000,000 for the same purpose for the same period. Harry Hopkins, the national federal relief administrator, had held up payments in May 1935 until the General Assembly passed an additional one cent sales tax which allowed Illinois to meet its quota of $3,000,000 a month. The U.S. government withdrew from the IERC at the beginning of 1936 when the newly established Works Progress Administration began providing relief for the unemployed who were able to work. The unemployed who were not able to work became the responsibility of state and local authorities at that point.

Points to Consider

What was "work relief"?

What were "resident non-families"?

Why were comparatively few women employed on work relief?

Which kinds of projects were the unemployed put to work doing?

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