The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOOD
This is a class action challenging a directive issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare pursuant to which the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance disburses emergency welfare checks by a centralized mailing procedure rather than making them available on demand to those deemed eligible. Plaintiffs contend first, that the centralized mailing procedure denies them equal protection because welfare recipients in all other counties of Pennsylvania receive emergency checks by in-hand disbursement; and second, that centralized mailing is in violation of the federal Social Security Act and regulations issued thereunder which require that emergency checks be given "forthwith".
In accordance with Rule 65(a)(2) we ordered that trial of the action on the merits be advanced and consolidated with the hearing of the application for a preliminary injunction. Trial on the merits was held on March 3, 1970, and after a review of the record we render the following Findings of Fact, Discussion and Conclusions of Law:
1. The plaintiffs in this action are Jean Adens, individually, and by her, her minor children, as well as all other residents of Philadelphia County who are eligible claimants for emergency assistance to needy families with children provided for by the Social Security Act of 1935, 42 U.S.C. §§ 603(a)(5) and 606(e) and the Pennsylvania Public Welfare Code, 62 P.S. § 201 et seq.
2. Defendants are the Executive Director of the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance, the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who are public officials charged with administering the aforementioned statutory provisions.
3. Recipients of regular public assistance (as distinguished from emergency assistance) are dependent upon timely receipt of such assistance for meeting the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, and shelter. (N.T. 59, 82; Answer admitting para. 7 of the Complaint)
4. By regulation the Department of Public Welfare provides for the disbursement of checks from the fund for "emergency assistance to needy families with children" to current recipients of regular assistance whose regular check has not arrived on time, or who have emergency needs and have applied for general assistance but whose eligibility has not yet been determined. (N.T. 101-2; Cf. Pennsylvania Public Assistance Manual, Sections 3214, 3631, attached to Document 4)
5. Prior to April 8, 1969, the nine District Offices of the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance, as well as Boards of Assistance in other parts of the state, issued checks for emergency assistance to needy families with children in person as soon as appropriate forms were filed and processed. (N.T. 77-81)
6. Pursuant to a directive dated April 7, 1969, from the defendant Secretary of Public Welfare to the defendant Executive Director of the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance, the foregoing procedure was altered, in the case of Philadelphia County, to provide for the disbursement of checks for emergency assistance to needy families with children through the mail from a central office. (N.T. 101-2; Cf. Exhibit A to Document 2)
7. Plaintiff Jean Adens and her four minor children, who are eligible recipients of assistance, were required to wait over a week for an emergency check to arrive to replace a regular assistance check during November of 1969. (Affidavit of Jean Adens attached to the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and admitted into evidence) (Document 9)
8. Plaintiff Adens' assistance check due December 4, 1969, did not arrive, and she applied for an emergency check on December 9, 1969. By December 18, 1969, the date of filing of this action, she had not received her emergency check (Ibid.). Failure to receive this check caused the Adens family to go without adequate food, clothing, and heating in their home (Ibid).
9. Delay from the date of application to the date of receipt of emergency assistance since the institution of centralized disbursement by mail ranged in a number of cases from a week to two weeks. ...