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Boyle v. Riti

Decided: July 21, 1980.

PETER BOYLE, JOAN BOYLE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
G. THOMAS RITI, DIRECTOR, NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF PUBLIC WELFARE, AND MIDDLESEX COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Public Welfare.

Fritz, Kole and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Fritz, P.J.A.D.

Fritz

This is an appeal from a determination in the Division of Public Welfare denying one month's benefits to appellants in connection with their application for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). We dispose of the appeal on appellants' motion for summary disposition (R. 2:8-3) which we grant even though we have no transcript of the hearing below since both parties agree that procedure seems appropriate, none of the material facts in this case are at issue (as appellants note at the very beginning of their brief) and the question, though novel, is not complex. Was the agency correct in determining eligibility on the basis of the applicants' resources at a time during the calendar month prior to the application or should eligibility be determined on the basis of resources in hand as of the date of the application? This is the only issue we here decide. We are persuaded that the agency approach is mandated by law and accordingly we affirm.

On September 26, 1979 appellant Peter Boyle was discharged from his employment as a truck driver because he was "guilty of an assault." On October 1, 1979 he deposited his final pay check, amounting to $300, in his checking account, bringing the balance of that account to $585.65. Between that date and October 5, 1979 appellants wrote checks reducing that balance to $5.21.*fn1

On October 5, 1979 appellants applied for AFDC assistance for themselves and their three children through the Middlesex County Board of Social Services (Board). At that time they requested emergency assistance. They were advised that it was possible for them to receive a check the next business day, October 9, 1979, depending upon verification of the bank balances as of October 1, 1979.

On October 9 the Board determined that Peter and Joan Boyle were ineligible for assistance for one month due to the fact that Mr. Boyle's actions had caused his unemployment. This ruling is not challenged on appeal.

With regard to the eligibility of appellants' three children, the Board determined that the "available resources" of appellants during the month of October 1979 exceeded the standard allowance of $224 for three persons set by N.J.A.C. 10:82-1.2 by virtue of the $585 checking account balance on the first day of that month. Beyond this, later testimony from an "agency representative" at a hearing before an administrative law judge advises that since Peter Boyle received a salary check of $300 on October 1, 1979 for the employment that terminated in September 1979, ineligibility appeared even after the "$60 disregard" of N.J.A.C. 10:82-2.11(a)3. Therefore, the Board ruled that appellants' three children were also ineligible for AFDC assistance for the month of October.*fn2

On October 10, 1979 appellants requested a "fair hearing" pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10:81-6.1 et seq. to review the Board's determination. This hearing was held before an administrative law judge, who reversed the determination of the Board. She concluded that although appellants "did not have eligibility for assistance on October 1, 1979" since their resources had exceeded the monthly standard allowance of $224 on that date, their depletion of these resources by the date of the application, October 5, 1979, to a point well below the monthly standard

allowance conferred eligibility for AFDC assistance for the three children for the last two-thirds of October, the period from October 11 to October 31, 1979.

The Board filed appropriate exceptions. Respondent, Director of the New Jersey Division of Public Welfare, rendered a final decision in which he reinstated the finding of ineligibility by the Board. This appeal followed.

The matter is somewhat confused by a tendency in the agency to treat income and resources as synonymous. The difficulty is more apparent than real. The simple question, as stated above, is whether the fact that the Boyles had more than $224 available on October 1, 1979 serves under the law to defeat eligibility of their children for AFDC assistance during that month. Appellants contend that the Board, in making its determination of initial eligibility, should have ...


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