PUBLIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS ‑- STANDARDS OF ASSISTANCE ‑- UNIFORMITY.
The Department of Public Assistance may establish separate standards of assistance for Old Age Assistance, Aid to Dependent Children, Aid to the Blind, Disability Assistance and General Assistance, each to be of uniform, state‑wide application.
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April 21, 1953
Honorable George M. Hollenbeck
Department of Public Assistance
Public Lands-Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 14
We have received your request of March 25, 1953, for an opinion on the following question: Whether or not the department of public assistance may establish separate standards of assistance for Old Age Assistance, Aid to Dependent Children, Aid to the Blind, Disability Assistance, and General Assistance, each to be of uniform state‑wide [[statewide]]application.
In our opinion the department may establish such standards.
The answer to this question is found in two provisions of the public assistance law. The first is RCW 74.04.200, which provides:
"The department shall establish uniform statewide standards to govern the granting of assistance in the several categories of this title . . ."
The second is RCW 74.08.040, as amended by section 18, chapter 174, Laws of 1953, which provides:
"Grants shall be awarded on a uniform statewide basis in accordance with standards of assistance established by the department. The department shall establish standards of assistance for old age assistance, aid to dependent children, aid to the blind, and general assistance to employable persons which shall be used to determine an applicant's or recipient's living requirements and which shall include reasonable allowances for shelter, fuel, food, clothing, household maintenance and operation, personal maintenance, and necessary incidentals. . . .
"For general assistance to unemployed employable persons, the department shall establish standards [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of assistance based upon annual living cost studies and compatible with a minimum necessary for decent and healthful subsistence. . . ." (Emphasis supplied)
In these two provisions "standards" is always used in the plural. RCW 74.08.040 provides that grants shall be on a uniform statewide basis. It also authorizes the establishment of standards in specifically designated categories. If the legislature had intended the establishment of a single standard to govern all categories, the listing of the categories would have been unnecessary. This is borne out by the provision governing establishment of standards for unemployed employable persons in RCW 74.08.040, which differs to some extent from the corresponding provision of that section for unemployable persons. Both classes may fall within general assistance as an overall category, under the definition of RCW 74.08.010 (6), as amended by section 17 of chapter 174. Thus, the legislature itself has authorized differing standards for two distinct classes of persons.
We, therefore, believe that the phrase "uniform statewide standards," as used in the two quoted provisions, must be construed to mean that grants in each program must be made according to a uniform standard for that category, in all areas of the state, and to all persons within that class. We do not believe that it was intended to mean that grants must be made on the basis of a single standard applicable to all programs.
We conclude that the department of public assistance may establish different statewide standards for the various assistance programs listed in your inquiry.
Very truly yours,
A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General