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MRS. B. V. MOHANTY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/17/78)

decided: November 17, 1978.

MRS. B. V. MOHANTY, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of In Re: Appeal of B. V. Mohanty, dated June 9, 1977.

COUNSEL

Amrit Lal, for petitioner.

Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Attorney General, with her Kent D. Mikus, Assistant Attorney General, and James R. Adams, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges Mencer, Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 38 Pa. Commw. Page 499]

B. V. Mohanty (petitioner) has appealed to this Court from a determination by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) that she is ineligible for child day-care services because her family income is too great.

In October of 1975, the petitioner applied and was found eligible for day-care services for her only child. The decision was based on income and need. In December of 1976, a redetermination of the petitioner's eligibility was undertaken, and the petitioner informed a case worker that her husband was now a resident physician in a local hospital and, on request, produced pay-check stubs to confirm his income. Thereafter,

[ 38 Pa. Commw. Page 500]

    the Philadelphia County Social Services Planning Unit decided to discontinue day-care services for the petitioner on the basis that her family income exceeded the maximum allowed figure for eligibility for a family of three. She then requested a hearing from the DPW and argued there that members of her husband's family living in India were supported by her husband and should be included in the family unit for the purposes of determining eligibility. The hearing officer disagreed and sustained the decision to terminate day-care services, whereupon the petitioner appealed to this Court.

The petitioner argues that the decision of the DPW should be reversed for the following reasons: (1) the DPW regulations fail to comport with applicable federal standards; (2) the DPW has not adhered to its own declared policies and procedures; (3) the DPW's definition of a family unit is arbitrary and violative of due process; and (4) the termination of day-care services amounts to expulsion of the child from school without just cause.

As to the first argument, the petitioner maintains that the DPW regulations are inconsistent with federal regulations, found at 45 C.F.R. § 228.62(b)(2) (1977), which provide that day-care services be available without regard to income. The petitioner, however, misinterprets the regulation. It indicates that "[a] State may impose a fee on individuals who are provided services without regard to income (family planning services, information or referral services, or services to prevent or remedy abuse, neglect or exploitation of children and adults)," but it does not even suggest that day-care services must be provided regardless of income. Her next contention that the DPW has failed to set different fees for different services and geographic areas as required by 45 C.F.R. § 228.62(c) is also without merit. The language of this

[ 38 Pa. Commw. Page 501]

    section is clearly permissive,*fn1 in that the state is allowed to set different fees but is not required to set such different fees. As to the claim that the DPW regulations fail to conform to standards and procedures for determination and redetermination of eligibility under 45 C.F.R. § 228.61(a), which mandates compliance with the United States Constitution, the social security and civil rights laws, and other pertinent federal and state laws, the petitioner argues that she has been denied equal protection because her eligibility was terminated solely on the basis of an upward change in income. This assertion cannot be accepted, however, for the DPW regulation involved has an obviously rational relationship to a legitimate state interest, which is all that the Constitution requires in social ...


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