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JOHN HART AND MARTHA HART v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/14/80)

decided: January 14, 1980.

JOHN HART AND MARTHA HART, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of John Hart, No. 15018.

COUNSEL

Stuart A. Cilo, with him Niles Schore, for petitioners.

Catherine Steward, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges Mencer, DiSalle and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. This decision was reached prior to the expiration of the term of office of Judge DiSalle.

Author: Craig

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 484]

The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) denied petitioners' request for a one-time cash grant to cover the minimum cost of moving the family to a new residence. This appeal followed.

The question concerns DPW's interpretation of its regulations at Sections 175.23(b)(3)(i) and 297.3(l)(1)(ii) of the Public Assistance Eligibility Manual

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 485]

(PAEM),*fn1 which would allow the cash grant if petitioners' move was necessary because their "present home is detrimental" to their "health and welfare."*fn2

The department apparently has been interpreting the relevant language of those regulations narrowly, as referring to the home itself, not the surrounding environment; thus, DPW presumably would have authorized the grant had the detriment to petitioners' welfare and health been the result of inadequate plumbing, heating, infestation or structural defects in the house.

Petitioners established that the house they evacuated occupied a plot adjacent to a road portion called "Deadman's Curve" and had been hit by careening vehicles twice in two consecutive years. They also testified that a tree branch fell and injured the petitioner-wife, that the two minor children, a boy and girl, were forced to sleep in the same bedroom and were becoming "curious", and that the home was too far from school.*fn3

Thus, petitioners contend that they are entitled to a grant under the regulation because their home was in a dangerous and detrimental location.

The question is whether it is an abuse of discretion for DPW to interpret its regulations as narrowly as it does. If the interpretation stands, petitioners' situation would be ineligible for a grant because the evidence establishes that the ...


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