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BACON v. TOIA

June 23, 1980

JEANNE BACON, individually and on behalf of her minor children ROBERT BACON and IFE BACON, and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs, against PHILIP L. TOIA, individually and as Commissioner of the Department of Social Services of the State of New York, and CHARLES W. BATES, individually and as Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Social Services, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GAGLIARDI

MEMORANDUM DECISION

The issue presented by this case, which is before the court on remand from the Second Circuit, is whether three provisions of Section 350-j of the New York Social Service Law ("NYSSL") as amended May 1, 1977 by the New York Laws of 1977, Chapter 77, Section 10 ("the statute") *fn1" deny plaintiffs equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 56. For the reasons which follow, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I Background

 Plaintiffs, recipients of public assistance in the form of Aid to Families with Dependent Children ("AFDC") commenced this class action in 1977 on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated AFDC recipients, challenging the validity of the revised eligibility requirements of the emergency assistance program established by the statute. In summary, the statute denies emergency aid 1) in the form of cash to AFDC recipients, 2) in all cases of loss, theft or mismanagement of a public assistance grant and 3) when sought to replace or duplicate a recurring public assistance grant. Defendant Philip Toia, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services, is responsible for the administration of the state public assistance programs. Defendant Charles Bates, Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Social Services, administers the state programs in that county as agent of the State Commissioner. The complaint alleges that the statute violates the supremacy clause of Article VI and the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. In their supremacy clause challenge, plaintiffs argue that the state statute impermissibly establishes more restrictive eligibility standards than the provision of the Social Security Act defining the emergency aid program. See Section 406(e) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 606(e)(1). Plaintiffs moved for class certification and summary judgment. This court, by decision dated September 29, 1977, certified the class of all potential recipients of emergency aid whose claims would be rejected based on the challenged statutory provisions, granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the supremacy clause claim and enjoined defendants from enforcing the challenged portions of the statute. *fn2" Bacon v. Toia, 437 F. Supp. 1371 (S.D.N.Y.1977). The Second Circuit affirmed, 580 F.2d 1044 (2d Cir. 1978). Thereafter, on June 6, 1978, the Supreme Court decided in Quern v. Mandley, 436 U.S. 725, 98 S. Ct. 2068, 56 L. Ed. 2d 658, that a state program which established more restrictive eligibility standards than the federal program was not necessarily invalid or ineligible for federal funding. The Second Circuit then granted defendants' motion for rehearing, recalled its order affirming the decision, vacated the judgment and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration of the supremacy clause issue in light of Quern, as well as for resolution of any remaining issues, "if necessary." No. 77-7567 (2d Cir. Aug. 21, 1978). This court granted defendants' motions for reconsideration and for summary judgment on the supremacy clause issue, and requested the parties to brief the constitutional question raised by the New York statute. No. 77-2823 (S.D.N.Y. filed Feb. 1, 1979). The court's analysis of the equal protection claim *fn3" requires familiarity with the legislative history of the federal and state emergency aid programs, and with the facts giving rise to the instant action. Since the latter are set forth in detail in the court's decision granting plaintiffs relief on the statutory issue, Bacon v. Toia, supra, 437 F. Supp. 1371, they are summarized briefly herein.

 II Legislative History

 A. The Federal Statute

 In 1968, Congress enacted an emergency assistance program ("EA") by amendment to the Social Security Act, Pub.L.No. 90-248, 42 U.S.C. §§ 603(a)(5), 606(e), as part of the AFDC program. *fn4" AFDC is one of the major cooperative federal-state categorical aid programs established by the Social Securities Act of 1935. A regulation promulgated under the EA statute provides that the federal government will reimburse 50% of the state's costs in administering an approved program. See 45 CFR § 233.120(b)(2). Although EA was enacted as part of the AFDC program, it is apparent from the legislative history that Congress intended that the new plan would provide expanded coverage in terms of both the kinds of circumstances for which public assistance would be available and the categories of potential recipients. The emphasis was less on enabling states to provide a defined category of recipients with the means of daily subsistence than on encouraging states to respond rapidly in an appropriate manner to meet the immediate requirements of any needy family with dependent children in the event of a catastrophe. See generally, Quern v. Mandley, supra. The EA program, unlike AFDC which limits aid to families with an absent parent, provides that low income families with both parents present, including families who do not normally qualify for public assistance, are eligible for emergency assistance in the event of a catastrophe. In addition to broadening the group of potential recipients, EA also offers a different type of assistance. "Unlike the basic AFDC program . . . EA is not a comprehensive system of income maintenance, but rather a program designed to allow quick ad hoc responses to immediate needs." Quern v. Mandley, supra, 436 U.S. at 744, 98 S. Ct. at 2079. The emphasis on immediate response is clearly stated in the legislative history; "(indeed) one of the primary purposes of making EA available to persons not receiving or eligible for AFDC was to "(encourage) the States to move quickly in family crises, supplying the family promptly with appropriate services, in the hope that this would in many cases preclude the necessity for the family having to go on (AFDC) assistance on a more or less permanent basis.' " Quern v. Mandley, supra, 436 U.S. at 744, 98 S. Ct. at 2079, quoting 113 Cong.Rec. 23054 (1967) (remarks of Cong. Mills). As a matter of fact, if a state were to distribute its limited resources over a broad based needy population, as is appropriate in dispensing AFDC benefits, see, Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 90 S. Ct. 1153, 25 L. Ed. 2d 491 (1970); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 90 S. Ct. 1207, 25 L. Ed. 2d 442 (1969), it would "fundamentally (misconceive) the purpose of the EA program." Quern v. Mandley, supra, 436 U.S. at 746, 98 S. Ct. at 2080. "A family that is facing destitution because its home has been burned down is not helped at all by a "moderate' grant insufficient to see it through the crisis." Id. In sum, EA "was designed "to assure needed care for children, to focus maximum effort on self-support by families, and to provide more flexible and appropriate tools to accomplish these objectives.' " Quern v. Mandley, supra, 436 U.S. at 744, 98 S. Ct. at 2079, quoting S.Rep.No. 744, 90th Cong., 1st Sess. 165 (1967), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1967, p. 2834.

 B. The State Program

 In 1968, in order to take advantage of federal funding, New York enacted the predecessor to the present emergency aid statute, Section 350-j NYSSL, New York Laws of 1968, Chapter 992, Section 1. *fn5" In assessing the legislative intent of the statute, the New York Court of Appeals concluded that it "comports with that expressed in the (federal legislative history)." Baumes v. Lavine, 38 N.Y.2d 296, 303, 379 N.Y.S.2d 760, 766, 342 N.E.2d 543, 547 (1975). The statute established basic criteria for eligibility, which were then modified by the regulations promulgated thereunder. Most relevant to this lawsuit is a 1969 regulation which stated, "emergency assistance shall not be provided when destitution is due to loss, theft or diversion of a grant already made." 18 NYCRR 372.2(c). A class of potential emergency aid recipients instituted an Article 78 proceeding in the New York courts challenging the regulation on the grounds that it conflicted with NYSSL 350-j and with the federal statutory provision, 42 U.S.C. § 606(e). The New York Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision which concluded that the provision was invalid. Jones v. Berman, 37 N.Y.2d 42, 371 N.Y.S.2d 422, 332 N.E.2d 303 (1975). Recognizing that the intent of the Commissioner may have been "to reduce or eliminate fraudulent claims that could easily be alleged and rarely disproven," 37 N.Y.2d at 52, 371 N.Y.S.2d at 428-29, 332 N.E.2d at 308, the court nonetheless struck down the regulation on the ground that the agency was bound to "promulgate rules to further the implementation of the law as it exist(s); . . . by adding a requirement not found in the existing State statute, the regulation as presently written is invalid." Jones v. Berman, supra, 37 N.Y.2d at 54, 371 N.Y.S.2d at 429, 332 N.E.2d at 308. Following this decision the legislature amended NYSSL 350-j to its present form. *fn6"

 Although the legislative history of the amended version of the statute is sparse, available documents provide some insight into the legislative intent. A memorandum in support of the bill reads in relevant part:

 
Concerning EAF (Emergency Aid to Families), a number of recent court decisions have interpreted the current EAF statute that any person who can demonstrate "destitution,' regardless of the cause, can obtain an emergency grant. This proposal would establish in State Law those specific limitations which the State had previously attempted to adopt by regulation. It would clearly delineate those situations of legitimate need arising out of unforeseeable catastrophes for which emergency grants would be available.

 A directive from the Department of Social Services to local agencies similarly indicates that the amended provision was intended to statutorily limit the grant of emergency assistance:

 
EAF was designed to meet specific emergency needs of families with children and not to supplement public assistance grants to ADC and HR *fn7" recipients. Recent court decisions . . . have expanded the availability of assistance under the EAF program. The court held that the availability of EAF Assistance may be limited by statute; however, the Department had attempted to limit the scope of EAF Assistance through regulations without statutory authority. This new law limits the scope of EAF.

 And finally, an affidavit of John Hickey, Director, Income Support Unit, Division of Income Maintenance, New York State Department of Social Services, adds, in pertinent part:

 
The intent of Section 350-j of the Social Services Law as enacted in 1968 was to take advantage of Federal funds to respond to emergency situations. The statute was not intended to serve as a supplement to the public assistance grant nor serve as an insurance policy in the event a public assistance grant was lost, stolen, or mismanaged. Accordingly, 18 NYCRR 372.2 was amended to prohibit the granting of emergency assistance when destitution was due to loss, theft or diversion of a grant already made. A copy of the amended ...

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