On appeal from the Decision of the Acting Director, Division of Public Welfare.
King, Deighan and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered by Bilder, J.A.D.
This is an appeal by a general assistance welfare recipient from a final decision of the Acting Director of the Division of Public Welfare sustaining the findings of an Administrative Law Judge that petitioner's benefits were properly suspended for failure to comply with general assistance employment requirements.
General assistance is a municipally administered welfare program supervised by the State. It is a residual or last resort
program designed to provide aid to needy persons not otherwise provided for under State laws. See Pascucci v. Vagott, 71 N.J. 40, 44, 362 A.2d 566 (1976). It is designed to meet the legislatively recognized moral imperative that the needy "not suffer unnecessarily from cold, hunger, sickness or be deprived of shelter." N.J.S.A. 44:8-122. It implements the State's declared public policy to provide immediate and continuing welfare assistance to those in need. N.J.S.A. 44:8-120. Withdrawal of general assistance benefits from one who is entitled to them necessarily leaves that person destitute.
Coextensively with its determination to meet the moral obligation to provide for those needy persons who are otherwise unable to obtain aid, the Legislature adopted a policy that general assistance recipients who are capable of working must give back work to the municipality in exchange for that aid. N.J.S.A. 44:8-114. "Thus, able-bodied individuals who have no mental or emotional handicaps which make them unemployable, would be required to render service to the community in return for assistance payments." Statement to Senate Bill 3075 (1977). To this end, the Legislature has provided that "any person who refuses without good cause to report for or to perform work to which he has been assigned . . . shall thereupon become ineligible for public assistance until he reports for and performs work . . . or shows his willingness to do so according to regulations established by the Commissioner [of Human Services] . . . ." N.J.S.A. 44:8-114.
Pursuant to the authority to adopt appropriate regulations for the administration of general assistance, N.J.S.A. 44:8-111(d), the Commissioner promulgated regulations to implement the statutory requirement of ineligibility for general assistance for failure to work. N.J.A.C. 10:85-3.2(g) and N.J.A.C. 10:85-10.6. These regulations provide an administrative framework for work placement and recognize exemptions for categories of unemployable persons. As pertinent to this case they provide:
[A]ny person who voluntarily ceases employment without good cause or any person who has been involuntarily terminated from employment for reasons
attributable to his/her own negligence shall be considered unwilling to work for the 90 day period immediately following such failure, refusal or termination. The MWD [municipal welfare department] will deny or terminate (with notice) all assistance to or for such person for the 90 day period or the remainder of it. N.J.A.C. 10:85-3.2(g)(7).
N.J.A.C. 10:85-3.2(g)(6) provides that a person has "good cause" to refuse or quit work under any of ...