California Homeless & Housing Coalition v. Anderson

Decision Date09 January 1995
Docket NumberNo. A062250,A062250
Citation37 Cal.Rptr.2d 639,31 Cal.App.4th 450
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesCALIFORNIA HOMELESS AND HOUSING COALITION et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. Eloise ANDERSON, as Director, etc., Defendant and Appellant.
Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., Robert Mukai, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Charlton Holland, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Stephanie Wald, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., Ralph M. Johnson, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, for defendant and appellant

Melinda Bird, Richard A. Rothschild, Beth Osthimer, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Michael Keys, Robert Capistrano, Steven Bingham, San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation, San Francisco, Casey McKeever, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Inc., Sacramento, Lucy Quacinella, Legal Services of Northern California, Chico, Peter A. Schey, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Mark D. Rosenbaum, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, Los Angeles, Alan L. Schlosser, Ann Brick, Edward M. Chen, Matthew A. Coles, Margaret C. Crosby, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California, San Francisco, for plaintiffs and respondents.

CHIN, Presiding Justice.

Eloise Anderson, as the Director of the California Department of Social Services (Department), appeals from the superior court's issuance of a writ of mandate directing the Department to reevaluate California's "need standard" under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and to publish the results of the reevaluation. In issuing the writ, the court found that California had failed to comply with 42 United States Code section 602(h) (hereafter section 602(h)), which requires a state participating in the AFDC program to reevaluate its need standard at least once every three years and report the results of the reevaluation to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the public. The Department contends that the trial court erred in finding that California's reevaluation of its need standard did not satisfy section 602(h). We agree. Therefore, we reverse.


AFDC is a categorical assistance program that the United States Congress established under the Social Security Act of 1935 (1935 Act). (King v. Smith (1968) 392 U.S. 309, 313, 88 S.Ct. 2128, 2131, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118.) Congress designed AFDC "to provide financial assistance to needy dependent children and the parents or relatives who live with and care for them." (Shea v. Vialpando (1974) 416 U.S. 251, 253, 94 S.Ct. 1746, 1750, 40 L.Ed.2d 120.) Participating states and the federal government jointly fund the program. (Daniels v. McMahon (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 48, 51, 5 Cal.Rptr.2d 404.) Although participation in AFDC is voluntary, a state that elects to participate must maintain a welfare system that complies with federal law. (Green v. Obledo (1981) 29 Cal.3d 126, 131, 172 Cal.Rptr. 206, 624 P.2d 256.) Thus, to be eligible for federal funds, a state must adopt a plan that conforms to the requirements of section 602 of the 1935 Act (42 U.S.C. § 602). (Daniels, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 51, 5 Cal.Rptr.2d 404.)

AFDC plans must specify both a standard of need and a payment level. (Everett v. Schramm (3d Cir.1985) 772 F.2d 1114, 1115.) The standard of need "is the amount deemed necessary by the State to maintain a hypothetical family at a subsistence level." (Shea v. Vialpando, supra, 416 U.S. at p. 253, 94 S.Ct. at p. 1750.) "It is the 'yardstick' for measuring financial eligibility for assistance...." (Quern v. Mandley (1978) 436 U.S. 725, 737, 98 S.Ct. 2068, 2075, 56 L.Ed.2d 658.) By contrast, the payment level is the amount the state actually pays to eligible households, which is a function of the number of household members and the amount of the household's other income. (Green v. Obledo, supra, 29 Cal.3d at pp. 131-132, 172 Cal.Rptr 206, 624 P.2d 256; Everett, supra, 772 F.2d at p. 1115.) Under AFDC, states have "broad discretion" in determining both the need standard and the payment level. (Shea, supra, 416 U.S. at p. 253, 94 S.Ct. at p. 1750.) Each participating state "is free to set its own standard of need and to determine the level of benefits by the amount of funds it devotes to the program." (King v. Smith, supra, 392 U.S. at pp. 318-319, 88 S.Ct. at p. 2134, fns. omitted.) "Thus, some States include in their 'standard of need' items that others do not take into account. Diversity also exists with respect to the level of benefits in fact paid." (Rosado v. Wyman (1970) 397 U.S. 397, 408, 90 S.Ct. 1207, 1216, 25 L.Ed.2d 442, fn. omitted.) States are free to set payment levels below their standards of need. 1 (Id. at pp. 408-409, 90 S.Ct. at pp. 1215-1216; Everett, supra, 772 F.2d at p. 1115.)

In California, the Legislature sets the need standard and payment level statutorily. Welfare and Institutions Code section 11452 contains the need standard. 2 It sets forth a schedule for determining "[m]inimum basic standards of adequate care," and enumerates the needs that the schedule "is designed to ensure...." Section 11450, subdivision (a), sets forth the payment level. Section 11453, subdivision (a), requires that the Department annually adjust the amounts set forth in sections 11450 and 11452 "to reflect any increases or decreases in the cost of living ...," directs that the adjustment "shall be calculated by the Commission on State Finance based on the changes in the California Necessities Index ..." (CNI), 3 and sets forth the method for computing the annual adjustment. In 1990, however, the Legislature amended section 11453 by adding former subdivision (c), which provided: "(1) No adjustment shall be made under this section for the purpose of increasing the benefits under this chapter for the 1990-91 fiscal year to reflect any change in the cost of living. [p] (2) Adjustments for the 1991-92 fiscal year and fiscal years thereafter pursuant to this section shall not include any adjustment to reflect increases for the cost of living for the 1990-91 fiscal year." 4 (Stats.1990, ch. 456, § 4, No. 9 West's Cal.Legis.Service, p. 1642.)

As originally enacted, the AFDC program did not require states to reexamine or adjust their need standards. In 1968, Congress required that "the amounts used by the State to determine the needs of individuals [be] adjusted [by July 1, 1969,] to reflect fully changes in living costs since such amounts were established, and any maximums that the State imposes on the amount of aid paid to families [be] proportionately adjusted...." (42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(23).) However, this amendment to the AFDC program did not require any adjustment to account for subsequent inflation. (Everett v. Schramm, supra, 772 F.2d at p. 1115.)

In 1988, Congress enacted section 602(h), which lies at the heart of this lawsuit. (Pub.L. No. 100-485 (Oct. 13, 1988) § 404, 102 Stat. 2398.) Section 602(h)(1) provides: "Each State shall reevaluate the need standard and payment standard under its plan at least once every 3 years, in accordance with a schedule established by the Secretary [of HHS], and report the results of the reevaluation to the Secretary and the public at such time and in such form and manner as the Secretary may require." 5 (42 U.S.C. *643s 602(h)(1).) Pursuant to this directive, in February 1991, HHS issued action transmittal No. FSA-AT-91-7 (Action Transmittal), which discussed passage of section 602(h) and directed participating states to provide information regarding their need and payment standards as of October 1, 1990, by completing the attached initial reporting form (FSA 111) and returning it within 60 days.

On August 6, 1991, California submitted its FSA 111 to HHS, reporting information as of October 1, 1990. It reported that the need standard as of October 1, 1990, had been in effect since July 1, 1989, and had last been reevaluated on June 29, 1990. 6 An attachment explained: "There have been cost of living adjustments since 1971 which have been based on the appropriate components of the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers and calculations by the Commission on State Finance. The schedule of minimum basic standards of adequate care set up by the Legislature has been adjusted by these factors." It further explained: "The cost-of-living adjustment which has been added to the flat grant levels established legislatively in 1971 is based on changes in the California Necessities Index. This Index is reflective of the weighted average changes for food, clothing, fuel, utilities, rent, and transportation for low-income consumers." The FSA 111 requested documentation discussing "the statutory/regulatory requirement, frequency and method of adjustment to the previously set [need] standard." In response, California attached copies of sections 11450, 11452, and 11453 as they read at that time. The copies of these sections that California submitted indicated that there would be no cost-of-living adjustment for the 1990-1991 fiscal year and that subsequent cost-of-living adjustments would not reflect a cost-of-living increase for the 1990-1991 fiscal year.

In June 1992, respondents California Homeless and Housing Coalition, Sonja Blutgarten, Belen Reyes, and Tammy Schutte (collectively referred to as the Coalition) filed a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. The petition alleged that, to comply with section 602(h), the Department had to "determine the actual cost of purchasing the basic needs identified by the state as essential for AFDC families ... and compare this to the current need standard." It further alleged that the Department had "violated [section] 602(h) by failing to conduct the required reevaluation" and by failing to report the results of its reevaluation to the public.

The Department demurred to the petition, arguing that section 602(h) did not afford the Coalition a private right of...

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