On January 21, 1961, the day after President John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, Abraham Ribicoff was sworn in as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. A native of Connecticut, Mr. Ribicoff was governor of that State from 1954 to 1961.
Shortly after assuming office, the President assigned responsibility to the Department to coordinate, itensify and expedite assistance to Cuban refugees who had fled the communist regime of Fidel Castro. First payments to refugees were made on February 27 and a week later some 2,800 adults and 840 children were receiving financial aid.
In 1961, the Office of Education began a long-term program of assistance to Cuban refugees consisting of aid to the Dade County (Florida) School System to help ease the impact of Cuban refugees residing there; funds to the University of Miami to train Cuban doctors and lawyers in United States practices; and a special program of loans to needy Cubans studying in American universities.
On February 1, 1961, the Division of Chronic Diseases was established in PHS to bring new focus and direction to such health problems as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer control, and vision and hearing defects.
In March, a milestone was marked in Federal credit history when Secretary Ribicoff presented the 10,000th active Federal credit union charter to employees of the Inter-American Development Bank.
On July 20, 1961, the President signed amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act, which strengthened the Federal role in this field and provided additional aid to State and local governments for control programs and waste treatment facilities.
Freedmen's Hospital was transferred September 21, 1961, by P.L. 87-262 from the Public Health Service to Howard University, where it continued to serve as a teaching hospital for medical students.
Public Law 87-273, signed by the President on September 22, provided for a 5-year program of grants for demonstration, evaluationtraining, and prevention and control of juvenile delinquency. Public Law 87-276, signed on the same date, was enacted to encourage and facilitate the training of teachers of the deaf.
In the wake of the 1961 White House Conference on Aging, efforts were accelerated to make the Department more responsive to the needs of the Nation's 17.5 million senior citizens. The Special Staff on Aging, an element of the Office of the Secretary, was doubled in size and given an increased budget so it could better coordinate HEW programs on aging and provide special services to State, community, and voluntary organizations in this field. A 29-member panel of nationally known specialists was appointed to advise the Secretary on problems of the aging and, upon recommendation of the Department, a President's Council on Aging was established in May 1962, to coordinate all Federal programs for older people.
An increase in the inspection staff of the Food and Drug Administration during fiscal year 1962 enabled wider enforcement of food and drug laws covering the amount of toxic residues that may safely remain on raw foods. FDA also began a concerted effort to alert the public to frauds connected with medical and nutritional quackery, which it estimated cost the public $1 billion a year. On February 1, 1962, enforcement of the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act began. Also, FDA responsibilities were significantly enlarged by passage of the Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments of 1962.
The Manpower Development and Training Act was signed into law March 15, 1962, and, even though no funds were appropriated during fiscal year 1962, the Office of Education made extensive preparations to administer their responsibility for institutional training under the Act.
During the Centennial Celebration of the first Morrill Act of 1862, which established the system of federally aided land-grant colleges, the Office of Education published a historical and statistical review of the impact of this historic program and reported that aid to landgrant colleges from the Office of Education in fiscal year 1962 totaled $10,744,000. These funds supplemented the original land-grant endowments of 1862, the income from which totaled more than S3.5 million in FY 1962.
In examining other higher education programs, the Office reported that since the inception of the student loan program under the National Defense Education Act, about 350,000 students had received more than $225 million in National Defense Student Loans.