Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Elaine K. Bittner.
Terrence E. Tomassetti, for appellant.
Mary F. Grabowski, with her Linda M. Gunn, Assistant Attorneys General, for respondent.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Wilkinson, Jr. dissents.
[ 50 Pa. Commw. Page 397]
Elaine K. Bittner (Claimant) appeals to this Court from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) affirming the decision of the Blair County Board of Assistance (Board) which denied her a nonrecurring one-time grant to use in purchasing an automobile. Claimant raises three issues for our consideration: whether she is eligible for the one-time grant pursuant to the provisions of 55 Pa. Code § 175.23(c)(2)(iv), whether that regulation is inconsistent with and therefore violates the federal statute which established the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., and whether the denial of the grant violates her equal protection rights. For the reasons which follow, we reverse the order of DPW and remand these proceedings for payment of the one-time grant to Claimant.
The facts of this case are not in dispute. Claimant and her nine year old son reside in Altoona. At the time of her application for the one-time grant, she was
[ 50 Pa. Commw. Page 398]
employed part-time at a McDonald's restaurant located approximately four blocks from her residence. She walked to work. In addition to her salary from McDonald's, she received partial benefits through the AFDC program. Prior to July, 1978, Claimant left her son with a neighbor while she worked. When the neighbor was no longer able to care for the child, she was forced to take him to a day care center approximately eight blocks from her home. Claimant was required to begin her work day at 6:30 A.M., the same time the day care center opened. She was able to arrange to leave her son at the center 5 minutes early, at 6:25 A.M., and to arrive for work 5 minutes late, at 6:35 A.M. She could accommodate this schedule, however, only with the use of an automobile.
Claimant was informed by her DPW caseworker, Ms. Gauntner, that she would be eligible for a one-time grant to purchase an automobile. Claimant did purchase an auto for $327. In order to pay for it, she used $227 of her own resources and borrowed the remaining $100 from her sister. She then applied to DPW for a $100 one-time grant.*fn1 Subsequent to her purchase of the car, Claimant's case was reassigned from Ms. Gauntner to a different caseworker, Mr. Findley. Mr. Findley determined that Claimant was ineligible for the one-time grant because such grants are available only to those who need them in order to apply for or accept employment or training not to those who need them in order to retain their employment. Following a fair hearing, DPW affirmed the Board's determination. The case is now properly before us on appeal.
The DPW regulation at issue here, 55 Pa. Code § 175.23(c)(2)(iv), states:
[ 50 Pa. Commw. Page 399]
A nonrecurring one-time grant may be authorized for an allowance to meet the actual minimum cost, subject to the specified maximum allowances, for any of the following items provided an individual shows that these items are needed in order to apply for or to accept employment or training which will result in ...