Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of: Rosemary Luhovey, dated October 11, 1976.
Peter P. Cherellia, with him Gary Robert Fine, for appellant.
John A. Kane, Assistant Attorney General, with him Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr. and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 127]
A decision of the Department of Public Welfare (Department/Appellee) finding Rosemary Luhovey (Appellant) liable for an overissuance of food stamps, and ordering her to make restitution thereof, is the subject of this appeal.
As required of recipients of food stamps and public assistance grants,*fn1 Appellant was registered in a Manpower Work Incentive Program. On September 29, 1975, she enrolled in a 15-week secretarial training course during which time she received a $30.00 weekly incentive payment to attend classes. In July, 1976, the County Board of Assistance, claiming that Appellant's failure to report the incentive payments resulted in an overissuance of food stamps during the preceding nine months, notified Appellant that the cost of her monthly food stamp allowance would be increased to recoup the amount of the overissuance.
Appellant was granted a hearing before a Department Hearing Officer who found that the Department should have been aware that Appellant was receiving weekly Manpower incentive payments. He, however, concluded, relying on Sections 3757.22(B) and (D) of the Pennsylvania Public Assistance Manual (Manual),*fn2
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 128]
that regardless of whether the overissuance resulted from administrative or client error, restitution must be made.
Claiming that the Department's regulations and the conclusion of the Hearing Officer conflicts with the Federal Food Stamp Act of 1964 (Food Stamp Act)*fn3 and results in a violation of the Supremacy Clause and a deprivation of Equal Protection and Due Process Guarantees, Appellant appealed to us.
It is asserted that to require Appellant to make restitution of a food stamp overissuance, which was no fault of her own, frustrates the purpose and spirit of the Food Stamp Act, which, she argues, is intended to permit families of limited income to purchase a nutritionally adequate diet. This strict liability approach to restitution, so she says, contradicts federal regulations and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. Appellant further urges that this conflict also results in a denial of her due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States ...