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Duckworth v. Miller





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Arthur D. Nicol, Judge, presiding.


Suspension of ADC payments.

We affirm.

The facts are few: In May of 1982 Duckworth's son was killed in an automobile accident. A wrongful death action was filed, resulting in a settlement of $8,500. This sum equaled 35 months' worth of Duckworth's payments under the State Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC). Upon learning of the settlement, the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) suspended payments based on her receipt of the $8,500 settlement. She continued to receive payments based on the need of a brother who was living with her.

Duckworth appealed the suspension of payments by IDPA, arguing that the Illinois provisions which were applied to her were contrary to the controlling Federal statute (42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq. (1982)) in that the provisions could only be applied to persons having earned income, whereas there was no question that Duckworth had never earned anything during the pertinent time period.

A final administrative decision upheld the original decision of IDPA. Plaintiff then filed the complaint from which this appeal stems, seeking judicial review of the final administrative decision. Her complaint raised numerous matters not raised before this court but again alleged that IDPA's actions did not come within the purview of the Federal statute because she had no earned income during the requisite period or — in fact — at all.

The trial court then entered a memorandum opinion and judgment which found the Illinois regulation consistent with the Federal statute and affirmed the final administrative order. A motion for rehearing was heard and denied, and this appeal followed.

Our disposition of this cause rests upon statutory interpretation. The United States Congress, seeking to aid and strengthen the familial relationships of the poor, enacted the AFDC program. Since then it has burgeoned into a sprawling morass of bureaucracy funneling money to the States for distribution in accordance with programs established by the various State legislatures. In response to the problem of the largess which the program had assumed, Congress has modified it through various amendatory acts. The modification of concern to us was added by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (OBRA) (Pub. L. 97-35 (1981)), the main thrust of which patently was to reduce the outlay of Federal dollars targeted for social programs.

One specific aspect of OBRA concerns us, that being the way in which States are to treat nonrecurring lump-sum cash influxes accruing to persons receiving Federal support payments. Prior to the enactment of OBRA, such influxes affected payments for the month in which they were received, but upon being spent the influx was forgotten. Under the new program, the influx was to be compared to the support payments and then to take the place of the concomitant number of payments which the influx equaled. The only issue in this appeal is whether the new provisions are meant to apply only to persons who have some (but definitionally not much) earned income, or to all recipients regardless of the existence of earned income.

To decide the matter, as in all cases of statutory interpretation, we turn first to the words of the statute itself. Three sections are relevant to our discussion. Section 2302 of OBRA (42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(7) (1982) sets forth the basic elements to be used in determining a recipient's need. It reads in pertinent part:

"[E]xcept as may be otherwise provided in paragraph (8) or (31) and section 615 of this title, [the State plan shall] provide that the State agency —

(A) shall, in determining need, take into consideration any other income and resources of any child or relative claiming aid to families with dependent children, or of any other individual (living in the same home as such child and relative) whose needs the State determines should be considered in determining the need of the child or relative claiming such aid."

Section 2304 of OBRA (42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(17)(1982)) deals with the receipt of a lump-sum influx of cash and reads in pertinent part as follows:

"[The State plan shall] provide that if a person specified in paragraph (8)(A)(i) or (ii) receives in any month an amount of income which, together with all the other income for that month not excluded under paragraph (8), exceeds the State's standard ...

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