The need for federal supplementation of state and local funds in carrying on certain relief and work activities will undoubtedly continue, and even expand, in coming years. Although the economic and fiscal problems arising out of this situation usually receive the spotlight, the administrative aspects are no less important. To a large extent, the effectiveness of the programs of federal financial aid is determined by the administrative arrangements under which the funds are distributed and spent. To the political scientist, therefore, federal participation since 1933 in “normal” state and local public construction and in work programs designed for the needy unemployed is of particular interest, because in these instances profound modifications have been made in the traditional procedures for administering federal aid.
It is interesting to reflect that the changes which have taken place in federal aid techniques since 1933 came quickly and without warning. The administrative set-up of federal aid activities appeared to have achieved a rather stable and permanent form during the second decade of the twentieth century. Certain outstanding characteristics could be noted in the federal subventions then being offered. The term “federal aid” referred to annual, recurrent lump grants made by the federal government to participating state governments. Each state legislature wishing to take advantage of federal aid for a particular function would first set up or designate a state agency with power to perform the work involved. The state agency, in turn, would periodically draft a program to be submitted to the federal government for its approval.