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Heinrich v. Illinois Dept. of Public Aid

SEPTEMBER 17, 1970.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding. Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded with directions.


The plaintiff, Mary Lou Heinrich, a recipient under the program for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), brought this action under the Administrative Review Act. She contested a decision of the Illinois Department of Public Aid which approved deductions from the assistance payments made to her each month; the deductions were for the purpose of recovering an emergency clothing allowance granted to her by the department. The Circuit Court reversed the department and the department appeals. The plaintiff cross-appeals from that part of the court order denying her a retroactive restoration of two deductions already withheld.

In November 1968, Mary Lou Heinrich was twenty-five years of age, the mother of two children, six and two years old, and had been an AFDC recipient since June 1964. Included in the grant which she received monthly was a sum which was intended to cover the clothing requirements of her children and herself. In November 1968, she requested a special emergency clothing allowance and submitted to the Cook County Department of Public Aid an itemized list of wearing apparel which she contended was needed to properly clothe her family. She protested that all of the items she had were either worn out or outgrown, that she had never been issued a special clothing allowance and had not been able to buy enough clothing on her regular monthly clothing allowance. After consultation with her caseworker which resulted in a reduction in the number of items requested, Mrs. Heinrich was informed that she would be given a special allowance in the amount of $208.27.

A condition attached to the allowance was that the $208.27 was to be repaid over a twelve-month period by the deduction of $17.36 each month from her welfare grant. Mrs. Heinrich agreed to the condition with the understanding that it would be appealed to the State Department of Public Aid. In her appeal she contended that her regular monthly clothing allowance was inadequate and that the deduction would reduce her family's standard of living below the minimum standard set by the department.

Mrs. Heinrich and representatives of the County department testified at the hearing and exhibits were introduced into evidence. The hearing officer recommended affirmance of the County department's ruling. The recommendation was approved by the director of the State department who wrote Mrs. Heinrich a letter stating in detail the reasons for his decision. He explained that it was the policy of the department to require deductions when special emergency allowances were granted for items which were in the recipient's regular budget; that the department set standards which provided a livelihood compatible with health and well-being and that, once having issued public aid funds in conformity with these standards, to reissue the same allowance for the same period would result in duplicate assistance. Upon Mrs. Heinrich's appeal to the Circuit Court, a preliminary injunction was entered prohibiting further deductions from her welfare check. Up to the time of the court's order in March 1969, the department had taken two monthly deductions which the court did not order restored. The court's final order was to the same effect as the preliminary injunction.

The Department of Public Aid possesses statutory authorization to "establish standards by which need for public aid will be determined and amend such standards from time to time as circumstances may require." Ill Rev Stats 1967, c 23, § 12-4.11. Pursuant to this authorization, the department has promulgated regulations, including regulations regarding the disbursement of emergency clothing allowances. The pertinent regulations in effect at the time Mrs. Heinrich sought an emergency allowance were these:

"Emergency Need for Clothing. The cost of providing or replacing essential clothing is budgeted when:

"Clothing has been destroyed by fire, flood or other disaster;

"There is insufficient clothing at the time of the initial grant or within 90 days thereafter;

"Clothing allowances have not been used to meet need because of poor management and immediate action is taken to help the recipient plan expenditures wisely.

"Budget Adjustment: Where the recipient has failed to use his regular clothing allowance to purchase essential clothing, the entire amount allowed for emergency need for clothing is to be deducted from the grant. The amount may be pro-rated over a period not to exceed 12 months." Illinois Department of Public Aid Categorical Assistance Manual, Chapter 1000, Topic 1006.3.

The department's Categorical Assistance Manual also provided that, if emergency grants were made for items included within the regular grant, an adjustment reflecting the duplicate assistance would be made in future grants:

"When there is emergency need for an item for which an allowance was included in the grant, assistance may be issued in an amount to meet this need.

"An adjustment in the grant for the following month or months to deduct assistance payments which constitute duplicate assistance is ...

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