Social Security Act, 1935

   The central pillar of the U.S. welfare system, the Social Security Act was passed in 1935 and amended and extended successively thereafter. The act established a Social Security Board—later the Social Security Administration within the Federal Security Agency—to administer the terms of the act and provide for unemployment compensation; old-age insurance; assistance for the destitute blind; and assistance for homeless, disabled, dependent, and delinquent children. Unemployment compensation was financed by a federal tax on employer payrolls—initially 1 percent and rising to 3 percent by 1938—to be administered at the state level. Old-age insurance was a federal program financed by equal taxes on employers and employees starting at 1 percent in 1937 and rising to 3 percent by 1949. Pension payments started for those over the age of 65 in January 1942. In 1939, this payment was brought forward to 1940 and survivors’ insurance was also added. Southern congressmen amended the original bill to exclude agricultural and domestic workers, thus eliminating the majority of African Americans. These restrictions were gradually lifted through amendments in 1950, 1954, and 1956, and single parents were given benefits from 1950 onward. Medicare and Medicaid were added in 1965.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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