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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History


The CUYAHOGA COUNTY SOLDIERS' RELIEF COMMISSION is a county agency, organized in 1886 as the Soldiers' & Sailors' Relief Commission under the provisions of a state law first passed in 1886 and since revised. The commission provides relief for indigent military veterans and their families, although its responsibilities diminished as government-sponsored welfare expanded. The county apparently began aiding soldiers and sailors in the late 1860s. When the state mandated that each county establish a commission to aid "honorably discharged, indigent Union soldiers, sailors and marines" and their families, the county program reorganized. By 1896 the 3-man commission (at least 2 of them Union veterans), appointed by the judge of the common pleas court, annually spent about $40,000 to aid 500 persons. By the 1920s, with about the same size caseload despite two more wars, the tax-supported budget had increased to $100,000. By the 1930s, one commissioner was usually a CIVIL WAR veteran, another a veteran of the SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR, and the third a member of the American Legion. The commissioners were exempt from civil-service requirements.

The caseload expanded during the Depression, with costs rising from $83,000 in 1928 to $600,000 in 1933. By 1935 the commission had helped 1,800 families a month and sponsored work relief. By the mid-1940s, both caseload and budget had declined, and the agency spent more time on employment. The commission reorganized and expanded around 1945, anticipating increased demand after World War II, and took the name Cuyahoga County Soldiers' Relief Commission. Since 1945 the commission's responsibilities have diminished somewhat. In 1951 and again in 1958, it was accused of mismanagement. In 1960 an attempt to merge it into the county welfare department failed. In 1973 an investigation led to guilty pleas of larceny by two former commissioners. Partly as a result of these scandals, the county welfare department (later the CUYAHOGA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES) took over distribution of relief to veterans' families. The commission then aided single veterans and childless couples.

The 5-member Cuyahoga County Soldiers' Relief Commission, according to 1986 law, "wherever possible" includes a World War I veteran, a member of the American Legion, a member of the VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS (VFW), a member of the Disabled American Veterans, and a World War II veteran who belongs to the American Veterans of World War II. In 1995 Edward Marzec served as president of the commission, which served an estimated 9,600 veterans annually.


Last Modified: 15 Jul 1997 02:39:18 PM

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