Appeals from the Orders of the Department of Public Welfare in cases of Appeal of Victoria Watson, Appeal of Nancy Santarpio and Appeal of Esperanza Gonzalez.
Richard Weishaupt, with him Sheryl Dicker and Douglas G. Dye, for appellants.
Betty F. Perry, Assistant Attorney General, for appellees.
Judges Rogers, DiSalle and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 42 Pa. Commw. Page 182]
These three cases, consolidated for hearing, present the same basic issue: In computing the net income base for the purpose of determining eligibility and assistance amounts for General Assistance recipients who have some earned income through employment, should the amount of payroll taxes withheld be deducted in full on the ground that it is not income "actually available for current use", or should the deduction of such withheld payroll taxes be treated as "expenses reasonably attributable to the earning of income" and thus be lumped with work expenses subject to a maximum deduction of $25.00?
The question involves the interpretation of two subsections of Section 432.12 of the Act of June 13, 1967, P.L. 31, as added by the Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 993, 62 P.S. § 432.12 (Act).
Subsection (a) of Section 432.12, 62 P.S. § 432.12(a) reads in part:
[ 42 Pa. Commw. Page 183]
In determining need for general assistance, the department shall take into consideration all income, excluding that amount equal to the expenses Page 183} reasonably attributable to the earning of income up to twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per month. . . . (Emphasis supplied.)
This subsection (a) goes on to require also the deduction of a standard amount of $50.00 from the "gross monthly wages" of each employed recipient, called the work incentive deduction, as to which there is no dispute.
Subsection (c) of the same section, 62 P.S. § 432.12(c) provides:
To be considered in establishing financial eligibility and the amount of the assistance payment, income must be actually available for current use by the applicant or recipient. . . . Income shall be considered unconditionally available if the applicant or recipient has only to claim or accept such income, including any of governmental benefits, social insurance, private pension or benefits plan. . . . (Emphasis supplied.)
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare (DPW), contends that there is "an obvious inconsistency" between subsection (a) above and subsection (c). That view is based upon a conviction that withheld payroll taxes, although clearly not "available for current use", constitute "expenses reasonably attributable to the earning of income." DPW holds that conviction so strongly that it has adopted ...