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JAMES PRICE v. WALTER COHEN (08/17/83)

decided: August 17, 1983.

JAMES PRICE, LOUIS GREEN, PEGGY STUART, ANDREW TALLEY, DELORES BUSCH, ANTHONY GOODEN, TONI COBB, CYNTHIA RIVERS, PATRICIA DOGMA AND TAMMY CRAIG, INDIV. AND ON BEHALF OF ALL SIMILARLY SITUATED PERSONS,
v.
WALTER COHEN, INDIV. AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, AND PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, APPELLANTS



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Seitz, Chief Judge, Adams, and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Adams

Opinion OF THE COURT

ADAMS, Circuit Judge.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and Walter S. Cohen, Secretary of the Department, appeal from an order of the district court, 565 F. Supp. 657, permanently enjoining enforcement of section 10 of Act 1982-75, which amended the Pennsylvania Public Welfare Code. 1982 Pa. Laws 231, amending 62 P.S. ยง 432.*fn1 The district court issued the injunction after concluding that section 10 violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating impermissibly on the basis of age. Because we hold that there is a rational relationship between the age-based categories established in section 10 and legitimate state interests, we reverse.

I.

In 1982, the Pennsylvania legislature passed by a narrow margin a series of major changes in the Commonwealth's welfare laws. Act of April 8, 1982, 1982 Pa. Laws 231. Section 10, the provision at issue in this suit, significantly alters the eligibility requirements for state-funded general assistance payments. Under the previously applicable provision, all persons eligible to receive general assistance relief were entitled to payments for twelve months a year. Section 10, in contrast, establishes two categories of needy persons: the chronically needy and the transitionally needy. Only those deemed to be in the former group are eligible for year-round general assistance relief. Those classified as transitionally needy are limited to three months' general assistance payments in any twelve month period.

A chronically needy person is defined by the Act as one who is eligible for general assistance relief and is

(A) A child who is under age eighteen or who is attending a secondary or equivalent vocational or technical school full-time and may reasonably be expected to complete the program before reaching age nineteen.

(B) A person who is over forty-five years of age.

(C) A person who has a serious physical or mental handicap which prevents him or her from working in any substantial gainful activity as determined in accordance with standards established by the department. . . .

(D) A person who is a caretaker. . . .

(E) A person suffering from drug or alcohol abuse who is currently undergoing active treatment in an approved program. No individual shall qualify as chronically needy under this clause for more than nine months.

(F) A person who is employed full-time and who does not have earnings in excess of current grant levels.

(G) Any person who is ineligible for unemployment compensation and whose income falls below the assistance allowance level as a result of a natural disaster as determined by the department.

(H) Any person who has previously been employed full-time for at least forty-eight months out of the previous eight years and has exhausted his or her unemployment ...


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