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Essex County Welfare Board v. Department of Institutions and Agencies

Decided: January 31, 1977.

ESSEX COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES AND SONDRA ENGLE, RESPONDENTS. ESSEX COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, APPELLANT, V. DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES AND IRENE STOWERS, RESPONDENTS. ESSEX COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, APPELLANT, V. DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES AND ANN GRIECO, RESPONDENTS. IN THE MATTER OF THE ESSEX COUNTY WELFARE BOARD (LOUISE BROWN). CAMDEN COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, APPELLANT, V. LINDA PERAZZELLI AND DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES, RESPONDENTS. CAMDEN COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, APPELLANT, V. DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES AND ARLENE GIBSON, RESPONDENTS



Matthews, Seidman and Horn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Matthews, P.J.A.D.

Matthews

[147 NJSuper Page 548] The single issue with which we deal in these cases is whether a county welfare board, which has terminated or reduced a recipient's grant to public assistance, available through the program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), may obtain judicial review from a final fair hearing of the Division of Public Welfare in which the Director reversed or revised the decision of the board.

Procedurally, the issue before us is presented by the Attorney General's motions to dismiss the captioned appeals and, in Docket A-2733-75, the motion of the welfare board to reinstate. We do not deal with the merits of any of the appeals; however, we make brief reference to the facts involved in each to establish the context in which the motions to dismiss and reinstate have been made.

In A-1780-75 respondent Engle applied on August 6, 1975 to the Essex County Welfare Board for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a public assistance program funded jointly by the State and Federal Governments. 42 U.S.C.A. § 601 et seq.; N.J.S.A. 44:10-1 et seq. Since her application indicated that she was immediately in need of assistance, the board issued her a "presumptive eligibility" grant in the amount of $310 by authority of the Public Assistance Manual (PAM), a compendium of the New Jersey public assistance regulations promulgated by respondent Department of Institutions and Agencies. Specific authority for "presumptive eligibility" is contained in PAM § 1120, which provides:

Once a "presumptive eligibility" grant is issued, it is the county welfare board's duty to investigate the recipient's eligibility in order either to validate her eligibility or determine that she is ineligible for assistance. This process must be completed within two months. However, the county board's interim failure to take final action on an application must not operate to penalize the recipient. Thus, the recipient remains presumptively eligible until her case is either validated or deemed ineligible. PAM §§ 2910, 3110, 4311.

Although Ms. Engle received an AFDC check for August due to her "presumptive eligibility," no check was issued to her by the Essex County Welfare Board for the month of

September, nor did she receive any notice to the effect that a September check would not be forthcoming. On September 25, 1975, however, the board concluded as a result of its investigation that she was ineligible for AFDC assistance and sent her written notice of this determination on the same date.

In exercise of her rights under 45 C.F.R. § 213 and PAM § 6000, Ms. Engle requested an administrative fair hearing to contest the Essex County Welfare Board's failure to issue a grant to her for the month of September as well as the board's final denial of her application on September 25. As a result of the hearing, which was conducted on November 17, 1975, the Division of Public Welfare affirmed the board's denial of Ms. Engle's application but ruled that she should have been issued a "presumptive eligibility" grant on September 1 absent a ten-day notice from the board specifying why it would not make such a payment. The Division ordered the board to pay Ms. Engle the amount of the withheld September grant retroactively.

Respondent Engle did not appeal from the denial of AFDC eligibility, but the Essex County Welfare Board, on January 28, 1976 filed a notice of appeal challenging only the Division's decision that she should have been granted a "presumptive eligibility" payment for September. On February 20, 1976 we granted appellant's motion for a stay of the fair hearing decision pending the disposition of the merits of this case.

In A-2080-75 respondent Stowers applied on September 3, 1975 to the Essex County Welfare Board for AFDC. The board failed to process the application and no adequate written explanation for denying assistance was forthcoming.

Respondent thereafter requested a fair hearing, which was conducted on October 29, 1975. As a result thereof the Director of the Division of Public Welfare directed the Essex County Welfare Board to proceed to determine Ms. Stowers' eligibility and grant AFDC retroactive to the date ...


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