Blum v. Bacon,
457 U.S. 132 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Blum v. Bacon, 457 U.S. 132 (1982)

Blum v. Bacon

No. 81-770

Argued April 28, 1982

Decided June 14, 1982

457 U.S. 132


New York's Emergency Assistance (EA) Program, which is federally funded under the Social Security Act (SSA), precludes the furnishing of EA cash to persons receiving or eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or of EA in any form to replace a lost or stolen AFDC grant. Appellees, who had been denied EA under these state provisions, brought a class action in Federal District Court to enjoin enforcement of the provisions, alleging that they conflicted with the SSA and violated equal protection. Ultimately, on remand after its decision invalidating the state provisions under the Supremacy Clause had been vacated by the Court of Appeals, the District Court invalidated the no-cash provision as a violation of equal protection, but upheld the loss-or-theft provision. On a second appeal, the Court of Appeals held that both provisions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Held: Because the New York provisions conflict with a valid federal regulation promulgated by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (Secretary) which proscribes inequitable treatment of individuals or groups under an EA program, they are invalid under the Supremacy Clause. Pp. 457 U. S. 137-146.

(a) Reliance on the SSA to find the New York provisions invalid is not foreclosed by Quern v. Mandley, 436 U. S. 725. While Quern emphasized that a State retains considerable flexibility in determining which emergencies to cover under its EA plan, it was not suggested that the Secretary was stripped of all authority to review a plan that arbitrarily or inequitably excluded a class of recipients. Pp. 457 U. S. 138-139.

(b) The Secretary's decision to apply the "equitable treatment" regulation so as to forbid a State to exclude AFDC recipients from its EA program is eminently reasonable, and deserves judicial deference, especially where the legislative history leaves no doubt that AFDC recipients were expected to be included in a state EA program. Pp. 457 U. S. 139-145.

648 F.2d 801, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 457 U. S. 133

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