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AGO 1950 No. 354 - October 03, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PUBLIC ASSISTANCE TO PERMANENTLY AND TOTALLY DISABLED PERSONS IN NEED

1. The Department has authority under current laws to establish a category covering totally and permanently disabled persons.

2. The Department has the authority to submit the necessary plan material to the Federal Security Agency and to receive and disburse funds provided by the Federal Government for this purpose.

3. Funds currently appropriated from the General Fund to the Division of Public Assistance of the Department for "assistance provided by law," can be used to provide aid in the new category.

4. Federal monies received from the Federal Security Agency under the provisions of "H.R. 6000" can be received and disbursed through the contingent receipts fund.

5. Payments under the totally and permanently disabled category must be issued in the same manner as other federal Aid payments.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                 October 3, 1950

Honorable Roderic Olzendam
Department of Social Security
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 354

Attention:  Jack Wedemeyer

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the advice of this office on the following questions:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "1. Does the Department have authority under the current laws to establish a category or subcategory covering totally and permanently disabled persons"?

            2.         Does the Department currently have the authority to develop and submit the necessary plan, rules and regulations, covering assistance to such persons within the scope of the new Federal category, and, if the plan is approved, to receive and disburse funds provided by the Federal Government for this purpose?

            "3. Can funds currently appropriated from the General Fund to the Department for 'assistance as provided by law' through the Division of Public Assistance be used to provide aid under the new category?

            "4. Can Federal aid received as the result of the changes and additions to the Federal Security Act be received and disbursed through the contingent receipts fund?

            "5. Can payments under this plan be issued and met in the same manner as for other Federal-aid categories?"

            Our conclusions are as follows:

            1. The Department has authority under current laws to establish a category covering totally and permanently disabled persons.

            2. The Department has the authority to submit the necessary plan material to the Federal Security Agency and to receive and disburse funds provided by the Federal Government for this purpose.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            3. Funds currently appropriated from the General Fund to the Division of Public Assistance of the Department for "assistance provided by law," can be used to provide aid in the new category.

            4. Federal monies received from the Federal Security Agency under the provisions of "H.R. 6000" can be received and disbursed through the contingent receipts fund.

            5. Payments under the totally and permanently disabled category must be issued in the same manner as other Federal Aid payments.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Your first question is concerned with the authority of the Department to establish a new category to provide assistance to "totally and permanently disabled persons," as set out in the provisions of H.R. 6000, which was recently enacted by Congress and which amends the Federal Social Security Act.  Under Title XIV of the Act a state may submit plans to the Federal Agency, which if approved, provide for reimbursement by the Federal Government for expenditures by a state for assistance for such totally and permanently disabled persons.

            Section 6, chapter 216, Laws of 1939 (§ 10007-106a Rem. Supp.) designates the Department of Social Security as the single state agency charged with the administration of all public assistance.  Section 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1939, as last amended by section 1, chapter 289, Laws of 1947 (§ 10007-101a Rem. Supp. 1947) contains the definition of terms used in the statutes relating to public assistance.  Public assistance is defined as including within its scope all assistance including Federal-aid assistance and general assistance.  Federal-aid assistance is defined as those specific categories of assistance for which provision is made in the Social Security Act of 1935 and for any other categories for which the Federal Government may hereafter provide matching funds, (i.e. totally and permanently disabled persons).  The term general assistance is defined to mean assistance and services provided to needy persons not otherwise covered.  It is clear under the above definitions that the only persons who are potentially eligible for the new Federal program of assistance covering totally and permanently disabled persons are those who are now receiving, or are eligible to receive, general assistance in this state.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Section 18, chapter 216, Laws of 1939 (§ 10007-118a Rem. Supp.) authorizes the Department of Social Security to give general assistance to "unemployable persons and unemployed employable persons in such manner, on such basis and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the Department and approved by the committee."  Inasmuch as many of the persons now receiving general assistance as unemployable persons would probably be eligible for assistance as totally and permanently disabled persons, when, and if, the state plan for such a Federal-aid program is approved, the Department is specifically authorized by the above provision to make any changes in the general assistance program that it deems necessary.  Until the new category is approved by the Federal Security Agency, it will be merely a new category of the general assistance program.  When and if the new category receives such approval, it will then become a Federal-aid program.

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that the Department of Social Security has the authority to establish a new category in general assistance in order to provide assistance to totally and permanently disabled persons and to comply with the provisions of the Federal Social Security Law in order to obtain Federal matching funds.

            In answer to your second question, the Department of Social Security is given the authority under section 10, chapter 6, Laws of 1949 (§ 9998-33j Rem. Supp. 1949) to make rules and regulations implementing the public assistance laws of this state.  Section 6, chapter 216, Laws of 1939 (§ 10007-106a Rem. Supp.) provides that the Department shall periodically make application for Federal funds and "submit such plans, reports and data, as are required by any act of Congress as a condition precedent to the receipt of Federal matching funds for such assistance.  The Department, also, shall have power to make and enforce such rules and regulations as shall be necessary to insure compliance with the terms and conditions of public assistance grants."  Section 26, chapter 182, Laws of 1935, amended by section 12, chapter 156, Laws of 1937 (§ 9998-26 Rem. Supp.) provides for the acceptance by this state of the provisions of the Federal Social Security Act as they then existed and any future act of like object which might be enacted.  You are advised therefore, that under the provisions of the statutes cited above the Department has the authority to develop and submit the necessary plan materials, and rules and regulations covering  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] assistance to such persons within the scope of the new Federal category, and if the plan is approved, to receive and disburse funds provided by the Federal Government for this purpose.

            In answer to your third question, the 1949 session of the Legislature appropriated various amounts of monies from the General Fund to finance the various categories of assistance and the expenses of operating the Department.  In 1950 the Special Session of the Legislature appropriated to the Division of Public Assistance the sum of $15,265,000.00 for "assistance as provided by law."  Section 6, chapter III, Laws of 1937, provides for four Divisions in the Department of Social Security, including a Division of Public Assistance which is to administer general public assistance including assistance to persons who are unemployable, sick and indigent.  That sum of money represents the state monies to be used by the Department in providing general assistance throughout the state.

            The new category of totally and permanently disabled persons will consist almost entirely of persons who are either now receiving general assistance or who are eligible for it.  During the period in which the state is drawing up a new state plan and qualifying for Federal matching funds in the new category, all monies received by recipients who are potentially eligible will be disbursed as general assistance monies.  However, when and if the state plan is approved, recipients of totally and permanently disabled grants will no longer be recipients of general assistance but will then be recipients of Federal-aid assistance.

            Inasmuch as it is the declared intention of the public assistance laws of this state that the Department of Social Security take full advantage of all Federal matching funds, there would seem to be no reason why funds now appropriated from the General Fund could not be used to care for persons now receiving, or eligible to receive, general assistance who are found to be permanently and totally disabled after H.R. 6000 provides Federal matching funds to the state.

            Your fourth question is concerned with whether or not Federal matching funds received under H.R. 6000 can be received and disbursed through the contingent receipts fund.  Chapter 243, Laws of 1945 (§ 5517-10 Rem. Supp. 1945 et.  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] seq.) created the contingent receipts fund in which all monies are to be deposited which are received from the Federal Government or other sources, which have not been appropriated or allocated by the Legislature, and which are given the state under conditions requiring expenditures for specific purposes before convening of the next session of the Legislature.  It would appear that the Federal matching funds which will become available under the provisions of H.R. 6000 on October 1st, are funds which have not been appropriated or allocated by our Legislature but which must be spent before the Legislature meets in January 1951.  Accordingly, you are advised that the Federal matching funds received under H.R. 6000 can be received and disbursed through the contingent receipts fund.

            Your fifth question is concerned with whether or not payments for totally and permanently disabled persons can be issued and met in the same manner as for other Federal-aid categories.  Section 1, chapter 216, Laws of 1939 as amended by section 1, chapter 289, Laws of 1947, (§ 10007-101a Rem. Supp. 1947) defines the term "Federal assistance" as:

            "* * * the specific categories of assistance for which provision is made in the Federal Social Security Act of August 14, 1935, including old-age assistance, aid to dependent children * * * child welfare services, other handicapped persons, aid to the needy blind and any other category for which the Federal Government provides or for which it may hereafter provide matching funds."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In addition, it defines "General assistance" as:

            "* * * assistance and/or service of any character provided to needy persons, not otherwise provided for, to the extent of their need * * *."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            Inasmuch as general assistance covers all other assistance which is not Federally matched, it appears that the new category of totally and permanently disabled, once it is established, will be a Federal-aid assistance program and not a general assistance program.  Section 9, chapter 216, Laws of 1939 (§ 10007-109a Rem. Supp.) contains the following provisions:

            "All Federal-aid assistance authorized by the County Administrator shall be paid by warrant of the State Auditor.  The County Administrator shall on or before the twentieth day of each calendar month prepare and submit to the Department of Social Security a roll for each category of such assistance containing the names and addresses of all recipients of such payments for the month and the respective amounts to be paid to each such recipient.  Each such roll shall be authenticated and approved by the County Administrator in the same form as required of public payrolls and upon approval by the Director of Social Security shall be transmitted to the State Auditor for the issuance of warrants."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In view of the mandatory provisions of that section, the Department is required to issue state warrants in the usual manner to provide assistance to persons within the category.  In addition, we should like to point out that only state and Federal funds can be used to provide assistance to persons in the new category, and funds derived from the county two mill levies cannot be used to pay the grants of recipients of totally and permanently disabled assistance. Section 5, chapter 216, Laws of 1939 (§ 10007-105a Rem. Supp.) provides that:

            "The state hereby undertakes to make available to the counties from state and Federal funds sufficient moneys to enable the counties to discharge  [[Orig. Op. Page 8]] their responsibility with respect to Federal-aid assistance; while the respective counties shall provide funds by means of the county tax, hereinafter required to be levied, to discharge their responsibility for general assistance."

            Accordingly, it is the opinion of this office that payments under the new category must be made in the same manner as for all other Federal-aid categories.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE
Assistant Attorney General

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