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IRENE FRITSCH v. HELENE WOHLGEMUTH (10/07/77)

decided: October 7, 1977.

IRENE FRITSCH, APPELLANT,
v.
HELENE WOHLGEMUTH, SECRETARY OF PUBLIC WELFARE, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA



COUNSEL

Central Pennsylvania Legal Services, Eugene F. Zenobi, Reading, Alan Linder, Lancaster, for appellant.

Darius G. C. Moss, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Public Welfare, James R. Adams, Robert Hoffman, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, former C. J., did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: Eagen

[ 474 Pa. Page 393]

OPINION

This appeal raises the question of whether the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) acted contrary to law when, pursuant to a departmental regulation, it ordered the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) assistance of a mother and her five minor children terminated because of the failure of the father, with whom they were living, to seek and accept employment. Prior to the department's action, the family unit had been receiving assistance because of the father's unemployment. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 607. The father, Francis Fritsch, had been registered as a participant in the federal Work Incentive Program (WIN) administered through the Pennsylvania Bureau of Employment Security (BES). See 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 602, 630, et seq.

The AFDC program is a "scheme of cooperative federalism" jointly financed by the states and the federal government. King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 316, 88 S.Ct. 2128, 2133, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118 (1968). The states participating in this scheme "have considerable latitude in allocating their AFDC resources, since each State is free to set its own standard of need and to determine the level of benefits by the amount of funds it devotes to the program." Id., 392 U.S. at 318-19, 88 S.Ct. at 2134. [Footnotes omitted.] The Social Security Act of 1935, as amended, authorizes the expenditure of AFDC funds

"[f]or the purpose of encouraging the care of dependent children in their own homes or in the homes of relatives by enabling each State to furnish financial assistance and rehabilitation and other services, as far as practicable under the conditions in such State, to needy dependent

[ 474 Pa. Page 394]

    children and the parents or relatives with whom they are living to help maintain and strengthen family life and to help such parents or relatives to attain or retain capability for the maximum self-support and personal independence consistent with the maintenance of continuing parental care and protection . . . ."

42 U.S.C.A. § 601. Although section 406(a) of the Act defines a "dependent child" eligible for AFDC assistance as "a needy child . . . who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent" and who is living with one or more specified relatives in a home maintained by such a relative, section 407(a), added in 1961 and subsequently amended, expands the definition to include a needy child living in such a home "who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of the unemployment . . . of his father." 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 606(a), 607(a). The Fritsches were within this expanded category of AFDC eligibility.

On July 18, 1973, the Lancaster County Board of Assistance sent a communication to appellant Irene M. Fritsch notifying her that assistance to the family would be terminated as of August 15, 1973, because

"Francis Fritsch has failed to comply with the employment policies of this agency -- # 3180. You have not shown us that you have been looking for work, and have failed to follow ...


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