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State’s Top Court Slaps State for Inadequate Welfare Grants

April 4, 1990

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration set welfare rates so low that some families were forced into homelessness, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The high court unanimously reversed a lower court verdict and ordered a new trial in the case of Barbara Jiggetts, a New York City woman who complained about low welfare rates.

The court agreed with welfare advocates who argued the shelter allowance in the state’s basic welfare grant was set far below market rates for even the cheapest housing available.

″A schedule establishing assistance levels so low that it forces large numbers of families with dependent children into homelessness does not meet the statutory standard,″ Judge Richard Simons wrote.

State Social Service Commissioner Cesar Peraes, in a prepared statement, said the state will discuss the welfare rates before a lower court.

Attorneys for Jiggett said they believed the Court of Appeals’ strong language in the decision would make it hard for a lower court not to order increased welfare rates.

″It’s a great decision and it’s very important for the welfare population of New York,″ said Allan Gropper of the state Bar Association’s Project for the Homeless of the City. He said studies have shown as many as one-third of New York City’s homeless population had been evicted from apartments.

Jiggetts, a single mother of three from the borough of Queens, sued New York City social service officials in 1987 when she was being evicted from her apartment. She has since found housing, but other families joined the lawsuit and the jurisdiction was switched to the state, said Matthew Diller, a lawyer for the New York Legal Aid Society.

Christopher Lamb, another Legal Aid Society lawyer, said the shelter allowance for a family of four in New York City is $312 a month. However, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development reports the average market rate for a two-bedroom apartment for poor people in New York City is $566.

″People shouldn’t be sent out into the New York City market and be told you have to find an apartment for a family of four at $312 a month,″ Lamb said. ″It’s like hitting your head against the wall.″

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