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ANNIE BOND v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/31/79)

decided: July 31, 1979.

ANNIE BOND, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Annie Bond, Case No. 604 157 D, dated June 5, 1978.

COUNSEL

Katherine F. Bryant, for appellant.

Linda M. Gunn, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 536]

This is an appeal by Annie Bond (petitioner) from a decision of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) affirming the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance's reduction of her general assistance grant, based upon a determination that she and her daughter comprised one assistance unit rather than two, under DPW regulations. 55 Pa. Code § 171.22.*fn1

Petitioner, her daughter, and her daughter's children resided together for approximately four years in a house rented by petitioner. Her daughter contributed $30 a month toward the monthly rental of $78. Petitioner was receiving a general assistance grant for

[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 537]

    herself before her daughter applied for, and was granted, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). At approximately the time her daughter became eligible for AFDC, petitioner was notified that her general assistance would be reduced from $164 to $49 monthly since she and her daughter's family were considered a single assistance unit. After a hearing, this action was affirmed by a hearing examiner. This appeal followed.

Petitioner argues that she and her daughter's family constitute separate assistance units since her daughter's family are roomers within the meaning of 55 Pa. Code § 171.22(i)(a), i.e., they pay a "fixed fee to a provider of service" for their living quarters. Although petitioner's daughter gives petitioner $30 a month for rent, this does not conclusively demonstrate that she pays a "fixed fee" which refers to an agreed-upon sum which is definite and binding. See definitions "fix" and "fixed", Black's Law Dictionary 765 (4th ed. 1968). There is no evidence here that the $30 is an agreed-upon sum which is in any way binding upon either petitioner or her daughter. In addition, we are unable to conclude that petitioner is a "provider of service" as required by the regulation. Petitioner testified that her daughter was living with her in order that petitioner could help care for the children and to save money. They shared food and expenses. This interdependency among family members constitutes a broader relationship than the commercial type of relationship contemplated by 55 Pa. Code § 171.22(i)(a).

Petitioner argues that, even if we conclude that she and her daughter were properly considered one assistance unit, DPW nevertheless erred in reducing her general assistance grant without determining how much of her daughter's AFDC grant was actually available to petitioner. Petitioner relies upon the decision

[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 538]

    in Gurley v. Wohlgemuth, 421 F. Supp. 1337 (E.D. Pa. 1976), which held that DPW regulations defining "assistance unit" could not operate to reduce the grant of one AFDC family simply because that family shares a common dwelling with another AFDC family, since to do so was to presume income availability between the two families, which presumption violated federal regulations requiring that only actual income be considered in establishing need and the amount of assistance. In Gurley, two sisters, each with her own family and AFDC grant, shared a ...


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