Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Herman Foster v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, dated May 6, 1981.
M. Patricia Carroll, Carroll & Carroll, for petitioner.
Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Blatt, Craig and MacPhail. Opinion by Judge Rogers. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 384]
Herman Foster seeks review of an order of the Department of Public Welfare entered May 6, 1981, following an evidentiary hearing conducted pursuant to a remand order of this court, denying his appeal from the Department's determination that he is ineligible for benefits under the General Assistance (GA)
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 385]
program and sustaining the constitutional validity of a regulation of the Department found at 55 Pa. Code § 183.64(e)(1), by which was established a $25 maximum limitation on work-related expenses deductible from gross income for the purpose of determining GA eligibility. Specifically, the Department held that the regulation challenged is consistent with the statutory authority of Section 5 of the Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 993, 62 P.S. § 432.12(a)*fn1 and is a proper exercise of the Department's authority to administer efficiently, economically, and appropriately the funds available for General Assistance. Foster here renews his challenge to the constitutionality of the $25 ceiling; arguing that he is, by its operation, denied equal protection of the laws. We affirm.
When this matter was previously before us, we held that the inadequacy of the evidentiary record precluded our review. The factual context is set forth in the opinion accompanying our earlier order, Foster v. Department of Public Welfare, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 441, 408 A.2d 216 (1979) (Foster I), and will not be repeated here in any detail. It suffices to note that the petitioner is trained and presently employed as a professional engineer and in 1977 he earned $11,352.00. His wife suffers from multiple sclerosis, a degenerative
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 386]
disease of the central nervous system, and requires constant care of another person. In 1977 the petitioner's work-related expenses, including $430 per month paid to persons who care for his wife while he was at work, were such that his income after payment of these expenses was less than the maximum monthly allowance for a two-person household in Philadelphia. Accordingly, the Fosters, who had been receiving GA benefits since 1972, received such benefits in the approximate amount of $191 per month in 1977.
In 1976, the Public Welfare Code was amended and Section 432.12 referred to above was added. This provision changed the method of computation used for determining the available income of an employed applicant for General Assistance. Previously, all expenses attributable to the earning of income, including such expenses as those related to commuting, uniforms, and the care of resident dependents during working hours, were deductible without limit for the purpose of calculating the applicant's available income and corresponding need for assistance. Section 432.12 placed a ceiling of $25 on the deductibility of these expenses. The Department implemented this provision by promulgating a regulation found at 55 Pa. Code, § 183.64(e)(1) which provides:
Expense deductions from earned income (GA). Expense deductions from earned income will be as follows:
(1) Personal and work expenses for other than self employment. The cost, not to exceed the total amount of $25, will be deducted from the earned income of each GA client 14 years of age or older for the following personal and work expenses attributable to the continued earning of such income:
(i) Expenses for transportation to and from employment.
[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 387]
(ii) Expense of care of children or a sick or disabled adult if no other sound plan can ...