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HASSAN v. BRADLEY

March 26, 1993

MICHELLE HASSAN, on her own behalf and as next friend of Adam Hassan and Joseph Hassan, Plaintiff,
v.
PHIL BRADLEY, in his official capacity as Director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, Defendant. FRANCES DIAZ, on her own behalf and as next friend of Emilio Aquirre, Yolanda Rodriguez and Ricardo Ramirez, Plaintiff, v. PHIL BRADLEY, in his official capacity as Director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, Defendant.


Lindberg


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GEORGE W. LINDBERG

Plaintiff, Michelle Hassan, and her children, Joseph Hassan and Adam Hassan, are recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The Hassan family receives a monthly AFDC grant of $ 330.00 from the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA). The grant is $ 481.00 short of the standard of need for a family of three, which was $ 811.00 per month at the time the complaint was filed. Plaintiff, Frances Diaz, and her children, Emilio Aquirre, Yolanda Rodriguez and Ricardo Ramirez, receive a monthly AFDC grant of $ 414.00, which is $ 500.00 short of the $ 914.00 standard of need for a family of four. In 1975, Illinois paid AFDC grants equal to the standard of need.

 As the adjudicated father of Joseph Hassan, Emanuel Shamoon is required to pay child support in the amount of $ 150.00 per month. Ricardo Ramirez's father, Gabriel Ramirez, is also required to pay child support in the amount of $ 90.00 per month. The IDPA requires both plaintiffs to assign their child support to the state as a condition of receiving AFDC grants. When the IDPA receives these monthly child support payments, it pays the first $ 50.00 to plaintiffs without any effect on their AFDC eligibility. The remainder of the payments are retained by the IDPA, which in turn pays a portion of the excess to the federal government.

 Defendant Phil Bradley, the Director of the IDPA, has moved for summary judgment in both related cases. Count I of each complaint alleges that plaintiff should be allowed to keep her child support to fill the gap between the grant amount and the standard of need pursuant to 42 USC § 602(a)(28). Count II alleges that plaintiff's due process rights are violated by the IDPA's requirement that child support be assigned to the state as a condition of receiving public assistance when that assistance is significantly below the established standard of need.

 To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, defendant must show that no genuine issue of material fact is in dispute and that he is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Where genuine issues of material fact exist, summary judgment should not be granted. Anderson v Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Because the parties are in agreement as to the essential facts of this case, the court must decide whether defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

 I. OVERVIEW OF SECTION 602(a)(28)

 The AFDC program is a federal-state cooperative effort administered by the states. It was established to "encourage the care of dependant children. . . . to help maintain and strengthen family life and to help such parents and relatives to attain or retain capability for the maximum self-support and personal independence consistent with the maintenance of continuing parental care and protection. . . ." 42 USC § 601. The AFDC program provides assistance to families deprived of the support of one parent through death, illness, mental incapacity or, in some states, unemployment. 42 USC §§ 606, 607. Families are eligible for AFDC assistance if their "countable income" *fn1" falls below a "standard of need" *fn2" established by the state, resulting in a "budget deficit." *fn3"

  In 1975, most states provided AFDC payments sufficient to cover the full amount by which a family's income fell below the established standard of need. Illinois was one such state. However, twelve states and Puerto Rico *fn4" did not provide full budget deficit payments which left a gap between the family's resources and the standard of need. These states were called "gap states." See 42 USC § 602(a)(28).

 Before 1975, child support payments received by a family in a given month were included in "countable income" for that month for the purposes of determining the family's eligibility for AFDC. If the family's earnings, plus any child support received, exceeded the "standard of need," the AFDC parent would be ineligible for assistance that month. In 1975, the law was amended to provide that child support payments would no longer be included in countable income. Instead, the state could require individuals to assign to the state their rights to child support payments as a condition of AFDC eligibility, 42 USC § 602(a)(26). The state was authorized to retain these child support payments collected "as reimbursement for any past assistance payments made to the family for which the State has not been reimbursed. . . ." 42 USC § 657(b).

 The collection and distribution by the state of child support payments so assigned is governed by the Child Support Enforcement Act (CSE), 42 USC §§ 651-666, Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. The CSE program is designed both to assist parents in collecting child support from absent parents and to reduce state and federal government AFDC expenditures, which are often necessitated by the failure of noncustodial parents to meet their support obligations. All states participating in the AFDC program are required to have child support collection programs, 42 USC § 602(a)(27), through which they assist families in establishing paternity, locating parents and collecting support through wage withholding, liens on property and withholding from unemployment compensation and tax refunds. 42 USC §§ 654, 664, 666.

 In states such as Illinois, in which the AFDC payment was sufficient to make up the full difference between the family's countable income and the standard of need, the 1975 amendment providing for the assignment of support payments to the state did not make a difference in the family's resources. In such states, support payments received directly by the family would have reduced dollar-for-dollar the amount of the AFDC payment. In "gap states," which did not provide a dollar-for-dollar payment of the budget deficit, support payments received directly by the family prior to 1975 could be used to fill the gap between the family's resources (including the AFDC grant) and the standard of need, without reducing the AFDC payment. In those states, the assignment of support payments to the state under the IV-D scheme would mean that the funds would be used to reimburse the AFDC payments made by the state, whether or not the family reached the state's minimum standard of need. Thus, AFDC families in "gap states" would lose disposable income under the reimbursement provisions.

 Realizing that AFDC families in "gap states" could be worse off under the CSE program, Congress enacted 42 USC § 602(a)(28), providing that child support collected by the state should be used as supplemental AFDC payments to fill the gap between the standard of need and the state's actual monthly AFDC payment standard. According to 42 USC § 602(a)(28), in a gap state, collected child support must first be used to fill the gap before such funds may be used to reimburse the state and federal governments for AFDC payments.

 II. ANALYSIS OF SECTION 602(a)(28): LEGISLATIVE INTENT

 If sufficiently clear in its context, the language selected by Congress must be given effect, American Tobacco Co. v Patterson, 456 U.S. 63, 68, 71 L. Ed. 2d 748, 102 S. Ct. 1534 (1982); Ernst & Earnst v Hochfelder, 425 U.S. 185, 200-01, 47 L. Ed. 2d 668, 96 S. Ct. 1375 (1976), unless the result thereby reached is unequivocally contrary to congressional intent or statutory policy. In re Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases, 436 U.S. 631, 643, 56 L. Ed. 2d 591, 98 S. Ct. 2053 (1978); United States v Campos-Serrano, 404 U.S. 293, 298 (1971). It ...


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