On appeal from New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development
Petrella, Long and D'Annunzio. The opinion of the court was delivered by D'Annunzio, J.A.D.
In these consolidated appeals, appellants seek to overturn the final decisions of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development (DHS) determining that they had exhausted their rights to temporary rental assistance (TRA) because they had been receiving TRA for more than the twelve-month limit established in N.J.A.C. 10:85-4.6(e)2. TRA is a form of extended shelter assistance supplementing emergency shelter assistance (EA). N.J.A.C. 10:85-4.6(a). EA is available for a maximum of "five calendar months." N.J.A.C. 10:85-4.6(e)1.
Appellants' principal contention is that the termination of their shelter assistance, thereby rendering them homeless, violates this State's General Public Assistance Law. N.J.S.A. 44:8-107 et seq. This contention is based on Williams v. Dep't of Human Services, 116 N.J. 102, 561 A.2d 244 (1989) (Williams I), judgment deferred and matter remanded, 121 N.J. 589, 583 A.2d 297 (1989) (Williams II), judgment entered, 121 N.J. 667, 583 A.2d 351 (1990) (Williams III).
In Williams I, the Supreme Court reversed an Appellate Division ruling invalidating the five-month limit on EA shelter assistance. We had stated:
to the extent that such regulations terminate such benefits based solely upon expiration of a prescribed period without additional support to meet the further needs of individual recipients, they cannot stand. In doing so, we confess our keen awareness of the frustration which the Commissioner must obviously be experiencing by reason of the limitation of funds. However, terminating all shelter benefits in such a manner necessarily assumes that the needy's homelessness problem will be resolved within that time which has proven to be untrue.
[228 N.J. Super. 529, 538, 550 A.2d 505 (App.Div.1988) (citations omitted).]
In its opinion in Williams I, the Court observed that subsequent to the Appellate Division's decision "DHS's Director of the Division of Public Welfare outlined in a February 14, 1989, memorandum, recommended measures to enhance post-EA shelter availability among the GA population if the five-month limitation were reinstated." Williams I, supra, 116 N.J. at 116, 561 A.2d 244. After discussing the recommendations in the director's memorandum, the Court reversed the Appellate Division subject to a condition, stating:
Hence, we shall issue a judgment that the regulation be deemed valid if, with the conditions noted hereafter, DHS shall have set in place by December 1, 1989, through proper administrative procedures, the new programs that it believes will make reasonably certain that the individuals previously housed in motels will find shelter and eventually housing elsewhere. We leave to the discretion of the agency the form of the agency procedures that will do this, either by a change in program directive or by a change in the regulations themselves.
[ Id. at 121, 561 A.2d 244.]
In Williams II, the Court, on plaintiffs' motion, deferred entry of a final judgment. The Court determined that "a factual dispute exists over whether the respondent . . . has set in place the proposed administrative changes and financial commitments that were 'to make reasonably certain that [the EA claimants] previously housed in motels will find shelter and eventually housing elsewhere.'" Williams II, supra, 121 N.J. 589, 583 A.2d 297.
Due to this dispute, the Court remanded to DHS for the development of a record by the Office of Administrative Law. It required an initial decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and a final decision by DHS. We reproduce in its entirety the Supreme Court's final judgment in this matter which is reported in Williams III at 121 N.J. 667-68, 583 A.2d 351:
This matter having been remanded on December 28, 1989, to the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop the record on which the Court would predicate its decision whether to defer the effective date of the Court's judgment in the within appeal; and
It appearing that in response to the remand, the Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), to whom DHS had referred the matter to develop the factual record, conducted an extensive hearing and submitted an initial decision and recommendation finding that the administrative changes implemented by DHS did not yet "make it reasonably certain that [General Assistance (GA)] recipients will be assured of continuing shelter upon the termination of emergency assistance [EA]," but that "defects in DHS's safety net program * * * can be cured by a rulemaking ...