Appeals from the Orders of the Department of Public Welfare in the cases of Appeals of Sandra A. Fisher, No. 31635, dated March 24, 1983; William Sharp, No. 0077370, dated April 27, 1983; Enrique Arabi, No. 126838, dated June 20, 1983; Gunther Schneider, No. 09012105, dated July 19, 1983; and Arturo LaRue, No. 94739, dated April 27, 1983.
David Woodward, with him Robert F. Bensing, Peter Zurflieh, David Gates and Richard A. Katz, for petitioners.
Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Counsel, with her Catherine Stewart and Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsels, and John Kane, Acting Chief Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Rogers, Craig and Colins, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
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We have consolidated for disposition the appeals of five general assistance claimants from separate orders of the Department of Public Welfare (Department) upholding a hearing examiner's decision to classify the claimant's as transitionally*fn1 needy. The
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hearing officer's decision was made pursuant to Section 432(3)(i)(H) of the Public Welfare Code*fn2 (Code), and regulations pursuant thereto.*fn3
The Code defines at Section 432(3)(i) nine categories of individuals who can be classified as chronically needy, and thus eligible for general assistance for an undetermined period. Claimants concede that they would only be eligible pursuant to Section 432(3)(i)(H), which provides:
(i) Chronically needy persons are those persons chronically in need who may be eligible for an indeterminate period . . . and shall be limited to:
(H) Any person who has previously been employed full-time for at least 48 months out of the previous eight years and has exhausted his or her unemployment compensation benefits prior to applying for assistance. (Emphasis added.)
The first issue concerns the statutory construction of the phrase ". . . and has exhausted his or her unemployment compensation benefits prior to applying for assistance". Does Section 432(3)(i)(H) require an applicant for general assistance to first receive, then exhaust, unemployment compensation
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benefits or will mere non-eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits suffice?
It is admitted by the Department that four out of the five claimants had the requisite 48 months of employment over the previous eight years. These four claimants were denied general assistance solely because they had not qualified*fn4 for unemployment benefits.
In dealing with questions of legislative intent, we are directed by the Statutory Construction Act of 1972 (Act),*fn5 to construe statutory words and phrases "according to the rules of grammar and according
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to their common or approved usage". 1 Pa. C.S. § 1903; Campbell v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (M. Glosser & Sons), 80 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 148, 472 A.2d 272 (1984).
In the instant matter, we are confronted with the problem that the word "exhaust" is subject to two different interpretations. In conjunction with administrative law, i.e. exhaustion of administrative remedies, the term exhaustion does not require that a party have an administrative remedy as a precondition to access to the courts, but merely means that if an administrative remedy exists, the party must first use ...