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Robert Kennedy's United States History Class

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New Deal Agencies

Below is a partial list of New Deal "alphabet agencies" and their primary function (relief, recovery, or reform).

  • AGRICULTURAL ADJUSTMENT ACT (Recovery) Created in 1933, the AAA paid farmers for not planting crops in order to reduce surpluses, increase demand for seven major farm commodities, and raise prices. Farm income rose, but many tenants and share-croppers were pushed into the ranks of the unemployed. In 1936 the Supreme Court voided the AAA.


Created in 1933, the CWA employed four million people--paid an average of $15 a week--many in useful construction jobs such as repairing schools, laying sewer pipes, building roads. Some CWA jobs, however, were criticized as useless (e.g., leaf raking). Roosevelt disbanded the program after less than a year.


The FSA was created in 1937 (formerly called the Resettlement Administration in 1935) to aid sharecroppers. The FSA set up temporary housing for "Okies" and "Arkies" (Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma and Arkansas) who migrated to California in hope of finding work.



To restore confidence in banks and encourage savings, Congress created the FDIC to insure bank customers against the loss of up to $5,000 their deposits if their bank should fail. Created by the Glass-Steagall Banking Reform Act of 1933, the FDIC is still in existence. FEDERAL



Created in 1933, FERA supported nearly five million households each month and funded thousands of work projects for the unemployed. It also provided vaccinations and literacy classes for millions of poor people.


  • FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION (Recovery)The FHA was created in 1934 to stimulate the building industry by providing small loans for home construction. A related program, also created in 1934, was the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC). 


The Indian Removal Act of 1934 (called the "Indian New Deal, reversed the forced-assimilation policies in effect since the Dawes Act of 1887. The IRA tried to stop the loss of Indian lands and encouraged Native American tribes to establish local self-government and to preserve their native crafts and traditions.


The NLRA (also called the Wagner Act) of 1935 created the National Labor Relations Board to protect the rights or organized labor to organize and collectively bargain with employers.


The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 created the NRA to promote economic recovery by ending wage and price deflation and restoring competition. The NRA set business codes and quotas. Under its symbol of a blue eagle and slogan ("We Do Our Part"), the NRA temporarily restored investor confidence and consumer morale, but it failed to stimulate industrial production. In 1935 the Supreme Court declared the NIRA unconstitutional.


Created under the Emergency Relief Act of 1935, the NYA provided more than 4.5 million jobs for young people.


Established by the NIRA in 1933, the PWA was intended both for industrial recovery and unemployment relief. Eventually over $4 billion was spent on 34,000 construction projects including public buildings, highways, bridges (e.g., San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge), and dams for water and power.


Before the New Deal, only 10 percent of the country outside cities and towns had electricity. The REA (1935) gave low-cost loans to farm cooperatives to bring power into their communities. By 1941, the REA succeeded in raising to 40 percent the number of farms with electricity.

  • SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION (Reform)The SEC was created in 1934 to serve as a federal "watchdog" administrative agency to protect public and private investors from stock market fraud, deception and insider manipulation on Wall Street. The SEC is still in existence [its reputation was tarnished a bit by the Enron collapse in 2001-02].

  • SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (Reform)The Social Security Act of 1935 established the SSA to administer a national pension fund for retired persons, an unemployment insurance system, and public assistance programs for dependent mothers, children, and the physically disabled. The pension was financed by a payroll tax to begin in 1937. It exists to this day as the nation's most important and expensive domestic program, covering over 40 million Americans and accounting for about one-fourth of the federal budget.

  • TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY (Reform) Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking of the New Deal, the TVA was a comprehensive federal agency created in 1933 for the economic development of the Tennessee River watershed. The TVA built twenty dams to control flooding, generate hydroelectrical power, increase agricultural production, and revitalize the Tennessee Valley region. The TVA also provided jobs, low-cost housing, reforestation and other services.


Established under the $4.8 billion Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, the WPA lasted until 1943 and employed at least 8.5 million people at an average of $2 a day. They built thousands of roads, bridges, schools, post offices and other public construction projects. In addition, under the WPA's Arts Program, thousands of unemployed writers, musicians, artists, actors, and photographers temporarily went on the federal payroll, producing public projects ranging from murals to national park guidebooks.*