AGO 1953 No. 15 - Apr 21 1953
APPORTIONMENT OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR FUNDS AND DISBURSEMENT, AND FOR HOUSING OF LOCAL PUBLIC ASSISTANCE OFFICES IN THE COUNTIES, IN CONNECTION WITH PUBLIC ASSISTANCE, BETWEEN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE: AS PROVIDED BY CHAPTER 174, LAWS OF 1953, AND CHAPTER 3, LAWS EX. SESS. 1953
1. Funds in county public assistance accounts on April 1, 1953, may be used for general assistance purposes, not merely general home assistance.
2. Such funds may be used for salaries, wages and operations of local offices to extent chargeable to general assistance.
3. Such funds may not be used in federal-aid programs.
4. Counties will have no actual duties in connection with general assistance when their assistance accounts are exhausted.
5. State department need not reimburse counties when their assistance accounts are depleted.
6. State may make direct payments for public assistance from state appropriations in 1953; need not issue budgets to counties.
7. New leases for local offices after April 1, 1953, should be executed on behalf of state department. Counties not responsible for housing after that date.
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April 21, 1953
Honorable George M. Hollenbeck
Director, Department of Public Assistance
Public Lands-Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 15
We have received your request of March 24, 1953, for opinions on several questions which arise from changes effected in the public assistance law during the recent legislative sessions. In view of the number of questions presented, we will state and discuss them one by one.
1. Your first inquiry is as follows:
"1. Under the existing law, must the county two-mill money levied for public assistance purposes, together [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] with any refunds, reimbursement or income that will be in the public assistance account of the various county treasuries on April 1, 1953 be used only for general home assistance, or can the money be used for salaries and wages, operation of the county welfare offices, or payment of assistance in any of the other categorical programs, such as Old Age Assistance, Aid to Dependent Children, Aid to the Blind, and Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled."
Our conclusion may be stated in this way:
1. The enumerated funds in the public assistance accounts on April 1, 1953, may be used for general assistance purposes without restriction to general home assistance.
2. These funds may be used for salaries, wages and operation of local welfare offices to the extent that such expenses are chargeable to the administration of general assistance.
3. These funds may not be used for payment of assistance in any of the categorical federal-aid programs.
1. Money in the public assistance accounts on April 1, 1953, as derived from the two-mill levy and refunds or income, was placed therein under the authority of RCW 74.04.150, as it read prior to that date:
"Each county shall levy annually a tax upon the assessed valuation of its taxable property at a rate of not less than two mills for public assistance purposes. A sum equal to the amount so assessed,together with revenues accruing to the county from the administration of the public assistance program shall be deposited in the county current expense fund in an assistance account and shall be disbursed by warrant of the county auditor * * *. Disbursements of moneys in such account shall be made primarily for general assistance purposes * * *. General assistance within the meaning of this section shall include hospital, institutional, and medical care, excluding tuberculosis hospitalization." (Italics supplied)
The effect of this provision was continued during 1953 by section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953, as to county responsibility for general assistance. Prior to April 1, 1953, there was no limitation of the use general assistance funds to general home assistance grants. Although section 3, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953 makes specific appropriation for general home assistance, it does not purport to limit disbursement of money in the public assistance accounts. We conclude that proceeds of the two-mill levy, and refunds and/or income in the public assistance accounts on April 1, 1953, may be used for general assistance purposes, [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] and not merely general home assistance.
Funds described as "reimbursement" are portions of grants-in-aid made by the state under RCW 74.04.170 as it read prior to April 1, 1953. That section uses the word "reimbursement," which ordinarily means money paid to a party to replace money which that party has already spent. However, the only money which the county is authorized to spend under that section is public assistance money earmarked for general assistance. The statute provides for replenishment of the public assistance account with state money when estimates show that two-mill money plus income and refunds will be insufficient to meet general assistance needs. Money granted by the state under this section must, therefore, be held to general assistance purposes in cases where such money remains in the assistance accounts after the end of the period due to over-estimation of general assistance needs. We conclude that "reimbursement" money is subject to disbursement for general assistance in the same manner as two-mill money and income; without restriction to general home assistance.
2. Since the enumerated funds may be used for general assistance purposes, the question presented here is whether these funds may be used for salaries, wages and operation of the local offices. Since disbursement of such funds is not limited to direct payment of home assistance grants, we believe that general assistance purposes would include such other costs of providing general assistance. We understand that the practice has been to apply these funds to those expenses. See the attached letter of April 25, 1952, summarizing opinions that money from the public assistance account could be used where local office space had to be rented, for example. It is true that we have concluded, in analysis of your eighth and tenth inquiries, that local offices are now state offices, whereas prior to April 1, 1953, they were county welfare offices. It is equally true that section 3, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953, makes appropriation for salaries, wages and operations so far as may be necessary. This section, however, does not purport to limit use of the public assistance accounts. The legislature is assumed to be aware of administrative interpretation; and we believe that section 1 of the last cited act, continuing county responsibility for money for general assistance purposes, should be construed to mean that such money would be applied as previously.
We conclude that the funds described may be used for salaries, wages, and operations, insofar as these expenses are chargeable to the administration of general assistance and are, therefore, applied to general assistance purposes.
3. The third question presented in your first inquiry is whether the enumerated funds may be used for payment of assistance in any of the categorical programs. While the levy described in the former RCW 74.04.150 is to be made "for public assistance purposes," the proceeds of the levy or their equivalent in the public assistance accounts are to be spent "primarily for general assistance purposes." We believe that the phrase "public assistance purposes" as used relates to the purpose of the entire chapter and the basic authority for the levy. The essential purpose is to provide money for general assistance. This conclusion is supported by other statutory provisions which were effective until April 1, 1953, which define the purpose of the levy. RCW 74.04.040 provided in part:
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
"* * * while the respective counties shall provide funds by means of a county tax levy to discharge their responsibility for general assistance." (Emphasis supplied)
RCW 74.04.170 provided in part:
"If any county finds that proceeds of the two mill levyrequired to be made for general assistance purposes * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
See also attached opinion of March 22, 1951.
RCW 74.04.160 provided, prior to April 1, 1953:
"In the event that any county in the state does notfor general assistance purposes require the sum assessed, taken in conjunction with revenues accruing to the county from the administration of public assistance programs, it may * * * release the amount of the overplus * * * from the assistance account to the current expense fund for general county purposes." (Emphasis supplied)
Under this provision, it is clear that the state cannot hold money in the public assistance account to use for purposes other than general assistance, because the county may release such money if it is not needed for general assistance.
By RCW 74.04.010, prior to April 1, 1953, "general assistance" was defined as
"* * * assistance and service of any character provided to needy persons, not otherwise provided for, * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
"Public assistance" was defined by the same statute as including federal aid assistance and general assistance. Federal aid assistance, which includes the categories named in the third portion of your first inquiry, was the only assistance "otherwise provided for."
We conclude that the programs named do not fall within the area of general assistance, and hence that funds in the public assistance accounts may not be used for payment of assistance in connection with those programs.
2. Your second inquiry is:
"2. * * * In other words, what funds shall the several counties make available for public assistance purposes, primarily General Assistance."
[[Orig. Op. Page 5]]
Our conclusion is that counties have only the responsibility for providing the full two-mill levy for 1953, plus income and refunds, and reimbursement present in the public assistance accounts on April 1, 1953.
County financial responsibility for general assistance as formerly provided under RCW 74.04.150 is continued during 1953 by section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953. That section does not purport to expand the county responsibility for funds as set out in the former RCW 74.04.150, but merely to continue it. The extent of that responsibility is defined in the analysis of your first inquiry, and includes the funds named in the foregoing conclusion.
3. Your third inquiry is:
"3. Do the counties have the responsibility for General Assistance to December 31, 1953, even though all county welfare funds have been expended."
Our conclusion is this: While county responsibility for general assistance is by statute continued to December 31, 1953, counties will have no actual duties in connection therewith when their assistance accounts are exhausted.
Section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953, continuing county responsibility during 1953, provides:
"The transfer of responsibility for general assistance from the several counties to the state of Washington, as contemplated by RCW 74.04.150, as amended by section 43, chapter 174, Laws of 1953, shall not take effect until January 1, 1954, the beginning of the fiscal year in which proceeds of the state tax levy authorized by said section 43 will become available and until that date the several counties of the state shall remain responsible for general assistance to the extent provided under preexisting law." (Emphasis supplied)
The transfer of responsibility contemplated by RCW 74.04.150, as amended, is related solely to the responsibility for provision of funds for general assistance. It is apparent that after passage of the amendment the legislature realized that the state tax levy described would not immediately produce funds, and that it would be desirable to utilize funds already raised under the 1953 county levy. While funds in the assistance accounts of some counties might be depleted before the end of 1953, this might not occur in other counties; and the provision therefore continued responsibility to the end of the year in order to take full advantage of such funds.
[[Orig. Op. Page 6]]
As indicated in conclusions given upon certain other inquiries, we believe that county responsibility for administration is ended by chapter 174, Laws of 1953. The extent of county financial responsibility is already defined in the analysis of your second inquiry, and further clarified in the conclusion upon your fourth inquiry.
We, therefore, believe that although the language of section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953, continues county responsibility to the end of 1953, it refers merely to financial responsibility; and that this will, as a practical matter, terminate either on December 31, 1953, or when funds in the assistance accounts are entirely expended.
4. Your fourth inquiry is as follows:
"4. If all county welfare funds have been expended, must the State Department of Public Assistance reimburse the county funds expended in order that said county may discharge its responsibility for General Assistance."
In our opinion, the answer to this question is "NO."
The last portion of section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953, quoted above, states that
"* * * until that date the several counties of the state shall remain responsible for general assistanceto the extent provided under pre‑existing law." (Emphasis supplied)
If applied literally, this provision would defer the effect of a large number of provisions which are outlined in the analysis of your eighth inquiry relating to administration of public assistance. Most of these sections are repealed; and the others have been deleted by amendment. The changes as embodied in chapter 174, Laws of 1953, are expressly declared to be emergent. We do not believe that a general reference, clearly limited in context to the duty to provide funds, could be construed to revive and continue all such provisions. This would be to attribute self-contradiction to the legislature. Where possible, all provisions of legislation will be given effect, including amendments and specific repeals. We believe that the former RCW 74.04.170, which governed state grants-in-aid and "reimbursement," falls within this construction. That section was specifically repealed. It did not relate to the actual levy by the county for the raising of funds which is the subject of the continuance made by section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953. It did not impose a duty, but was merely discretionary, containing the following language:
"If any county finds that proceeds of the two mill levy required to be made for general assistance purposes [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] are inadequate for such purposes, the county administratormay submit to the director and committee a request for a special grant-in-aid of state funds. * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
We conclude that any authority under the former RCW 74.04.170 expired on April 1, 1953. This was an administrative authority, and not a financial responsibility; and as will be indicated in analysis of your eighth inquiry, administrative responsibility has been withdrawn from the counties. If county public assistance accounts are exhausted before December 31, 1953, we believe that the department may make direct payments of grants for general assistance as outlined in the discussion of your fifth inquiry.
5. Your fifth inquiry is:
"5. Can the State Department of Public Assistance make direct payments to recipients from state appropriations for general assistance during 1953."
In our opinion the answer to this question is "Yes."
As indicated, it is possible that county assistance accounts may be totally depleted before December 31, 1953. The counties have no authority to request grants-in-aid; it has specifically been withdrawn. There is no doubt that the legislature intended the general assistance program to continue, although proceeds of the state tax levy under the new, amended RCW 74.04.150 may not become available within 1953. By section 3, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953, funds were appropriated for general home assistance during the biennium beginning April 1, 1953, as necessary. Inasmuch as general assistance, including general home assistance, will be paid from the county assistance accounts for at least some portion of 1953, and the general assistance program is to be continued, whenever county money is exhausted it will become necessary to use the state appropriation. Since application of this money by way of grants-in-aid is no longer authorized, the extra step of county disbursement is obviated, and the state may make the payments directly.
Further, section 42, chapter 174, Laws of 1953, provides:
"In order to comply with federal statutes and regulations * * * and to provide for the prompt payment of initial grants and adjusting payments of grants the director is authorized to make provisions for the cash payment of assistance by the director or county administrators by the establishment of a central operating fund. The director may establish such a fund with the approval of the state auditor from moneys appropriated to the department for the payment of general assistance in a sum not to exceed one million dollars. * * *"
[[Orig. Op. Page 8]]
This section also provides for direct payments to recipients from state appropriations for general assistance during 1953 for the purposes described.
6. Your sixth inquiry is:
"6. Must the Department of Public Assistance issue budgets to the various county welfare offices for general assistance or for other purposes."
In our opinion the answer to this question is "no."
We have found no requirement in the statutes now in effect that the department must issue budgets to county offices.
7. Your seventh inquiry is as follows:
"7. Must the authorization for payments to recipients from the county public assistance account be signed by the county administrator and the county commissioners."
In our opinion the answer to this question is "Yes."
Funds in the public assistance accounts are in the county treasury. Disbursements of these funds must be approved by the county commissioners, who will sign the authorization therefor.
Such disbursements must comply with the provisions of RCW 74.04.150 as it read prior to April 1, 1953, that
"* * * [such funds] shall be disbursed by warrant of the county auditor upon a prescribed formauthenticated by the county administrator and approved by the board of county commissioners. * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
This section requires the county administrator to authenticate the warrants. The normal method of authentication is by signature, and we believe that to be true in this case. We conclude that the county administrator must sign the warrants, which is as much authorization for payment to recipients as the more general authorization made by the county commissioners.
8. Your eighth inquiry is this:
"8. Subsequent to April 1, 1953, must the State Department of Public Assistance execute all new leases."
[[Orig. Op. Page 9]]
Our conclusion may be stated in this way: After April 1, 1953, all new leases must be executed by the supervisor of purchasing on behalf of the Department of Public Assistance.
The answer to this question depends upon whether the public assistance offices for administration in the counties are to be state or county offices. As indicated in the analysis of your third and fourth inquiries, we believe that section 1, chapter 3, Laws Ex. Sess. 1953 continues only the mandatory financial responsibility of the counties during 1953. This does not include administrative responsibility, which would encompass the duty to maintain local offices and personnel. We must look to the changes made in that connection by chapter 174, Laws of 1953, to discover where the legislature has placed the administrative responsibility.
At the outset, it is clear that the Washington public assistance law has been enacted in contemplation of Federal law, in order to receive the benefit of matching funds. Title 42, U.S.C.A., section 302, provides in part:
"(a) A State plan for old-age assistancemust (1) provide that it shall be in effect in all political subdivisions of the State, and, if administered by them, be mandatory upon them; * * * (3) either provide for the establishment * * * of a single State agency toadminister the plan, or provide for the establishment * * * of a single State agency tosupervise the administration of the plan; * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
Section 602 (Dependent Children), 1202 (Blind), and 1352 (Permanently and Totally Disabled) of the same title contain identical provisions.
Thus, the following changes in Washington law indicate that the legislature intended to place administrative responsibility in the state, and to remove it from the counties. Prior to April 1, 1953, RCW 74.04.040 provided:
"* * * The severalcounties of the state are charged with responsibility, through their respective boards of county commissioners, for the administration of public assistance * * *; but they shall be subject to state supervision * * *." (Emphasis supplied)
Section 12 of chapter 174 amended this section to read:
"* * * County offices are charged with the responsibility for theadministration of public assistance within the respective county * * *as local offices of the department as prescribed by the rules and regulations of the department." (Emphasis supplied)
Prior to April 1, 1953, RCW 74.04.050 provided:
[[Orig. Op. Page 10]]
"The department shall serve as the single state agency tosupervise the administration of public assistance. * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
Section 6 of chapter 174 amended this to read:
"The department shall serve as the single state agency toadminister public assistance. * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
Prior to April 1, 1953, RCW 74.04.070 provided:
"The board of county commissioners of each county in the state, in orderto carry out their responsibility under this chapter,shall establish a county welfare department which shall have full charge ofadministration of public assistance within the county. The welfare department shall be in charge of a county administrator who shall be appointed by the board of county commissioners * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
Section 13 of chapter 174 amended this to read:
"There may be established in each county of the state a county office which shall be administered by * * * the county administrator. The county administrator shall be appointed by the director * * *."
RCW 74.04.180 formerly provided:
"The provisions of this chapter shall bemandatory upon every county in the state * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
Section 15 of chapter 174 amended this section to read:
"Public assistance may be administered through a single administrator and a single administrative office * * *. There may be alocal office for the transaction of official business maintained in each county." (Emphasis supplied)
Prior to April 1, 1953, RCW 74.16.020 provided:
"County welfare departments are charged with the duty of administering financial assistance to needy individuals who are blind * * *."
Section 52, of chapter 174 specifically repealed this section, and also RCW 74.12.040, which contained reference to phases of administration of assistance to dependent children by county welfare offices. Section 52 also repealed the detailed provisions of RCW 74.04.090 for county administration of public assistance. RCW 74.08.360, which contained authority for establishment by the department of branch offices ‑ not [[Orig. Op. Page 11]] mentioning each county ‑ and was apparently a supplementary provision, was also repealed by section 52; apparently because state offices in each county as authorized by the amendment to RCW 74.04.070 as quoted above would obviate the necessity for supplementary branch offices of the department. We believe that the phrase "may be established" in the amended RCW 74.04.070 merely follows the wording of the Federal statutes quoted, and does not contemplate postponement of the transfer of administrative responsibility to the state under the changes outlined above. All such changes were expressly declared to be emergent by section 53 of chapter 174.
We conclude from the tenor of these changes that local personnel are now state personnel, that local offices are now state offices, and that local administration is now the responsibility of the department of public assistance rather than the county commissioners. New leases for the housing of the local offices are, therefore, the responsibility of the department. Such leases should be executed in compliance with RCW 43.90.060, 43.90.070, 43.90.080 and 43.90.090 by the supervisor of purchasing on behalf of the department.
9. Your ninth inquiry is as follows:
"9. Can the State Department of Public Assistance accept leases in existence on April 1, 1953, as signed by the county commissioners."
Our conclusion may be stated in this way: We believe that the department may assume responsibility for leases executed by the county commissioners by means of sub‑leases or assignments, through the supervisor of purchasing.
By the term "accept" we assume that you mean occupation of housing previously used by county welfare offices and payment therefor under terms of the existing leases. As indicated, these leases were a county, rather than a state, responsibility prior to April 1, 1953. No authority existed under which the department could have become a party to such leases (unless under the former RCW 74.08.360), and hence the department cannot merely succeed to the position of lessee without assignment or sub‑lease provisions. If the terms of such leases do not permit sub‑lease or assignment, the lessors and the counties might agree to their rescission, whereupon new leases in the same terms could be executed on behalf of the department in the manner described.
10. Your tenth inquiry states:
"10. Do the county commissioners still have the responsibility during 1953 to provide housing for the county welfare offices."
[[Orig. Op. Page 12]]
In our opinion, the answer to this question is "No."
The basis for this conclusion is set forth in the analysis of your eighth inquiry. County welfare offices as contemplated by the former provisions of chapter 74.04 RCW no longer exist in law. County responsibility is limited to the duty to provide funds as described in part 2 of the analysis of your first inquiry; although we believe that a proportion of those funds may be charged to administration of general assistance in the local offices of the department as a general assistance purpose, there being no limitation upon their use for such a purpose. We do not believe, however, that this is to be considered a direct responsibility for housing of local offices.
We hope that the conclusions expressed will prove to be of assistance.
Very truly yours,
A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General