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NH Supreme Court Sends Strong Message for Children with Disabilities

A ruling by the New Hampshire Supreme Court means families won't have their TANF funds cut for also receiving SSI payments to care for children with disabilities. (California State University)
A ruling by the New Hampshire Supreme Court means families won't have their TANF funds cut for also receiving SSI payments to care for children with disabilities. (California State University)
August 18, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled on a budgeting issue this month that should mean more funds are available for New Hampshire children with disabilities.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funding is a fundamental lifeline for needy families, says Ruth Heintz, managing attorney for the North County office of New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

She applauds the unanimous ruling by the State Supreme Court that the state cannot reduce TANF payments to families that also receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) funding through Social Security, for a child with a disability.

"Ultimately they said that it violated the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, and that's because the federal Social Security Act earmarked those SSI benefits for the use and benefit of the child receiving them,” Heintz explains.

In writing the decision, the state's chief justice addressed the intention of Congress in funding the SSI program. He wrote that Congress intended to provide children with disabilities with the minimum amount necessary to satisfy their basic needs.

Heintz says the state ran afoul of the Constitution when it treated dedicated SSI funding as family income, generally available to all members of a family in need.

"When the state said, 'That money is going to be considered available to the whole assistance group, and we're going to cut your TANF benefits because you're getting this SSI money,' that undermines the ability to fulfill the full purpose of the federal law," she points out.

Carrie Hendrick filed the suit to challenge New Hampshire's practice of treating the SSI payments to children as family income when determining eligibility for the TANF program.

Two of Hendrick's six children qualify for SSI due to severe disabilities.




Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH