Mr. Cunningham will not work for the WPA (Works Progress Administration of the New Deal) because he is too proud to take what he considers as a "hand-out," and his farm, which is mortgaged, would be neglected and he would lose it.
The WPA was a program begun as a relief program in 1933. Men were employed to build bridges, construct roads, parks, schools, etc. They received $41.75 a month for doing this work, but Mr. Cunningham considers this program as a mere "hand out" since the government provide the money, rather than private enterprise, considering it the same as the welfare check that the disreputable, indolent Bob Ewell receives. Instead of taking this money, Mr. Cunningham pays Atticus and others by providing them potatoes stove wood, hickory nuts, turnips or some other produce from his farm. Also, if he were to work for the WPA, Mr. Cunningham would have to neglect his mortgaged farm, and he is proud man who does not want to lose his land. "Mr. Cunningham, said Atticus, came from a set breed of men." (Chapter 2)