More on the English government's inaction:
In a less successful precursor to the WPA, the British government began to sponsor the building of various public works in exchange for food; they started this in the year 1847, and they offered very little food, and as a result the plan was totally ineffectual.
There are still remains today of those public works, most notably the so-called "Famine Roads", roads built by peasant workers who had no real knowledge of how to actually build a road. These roads often lead off into forests, or go to and from remote places where no road was ever conceivably needed; many of them taper off into nothingness in the trees because the builders either quit or died of starvation.
See Eavan Boland's poem "That the Science of Cartography is Limited".