Anderson v. Edwards, 514 U.S. 143, 4 (1995)

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146

ANDERSON v. EDWARDS

Opinion of the Court

"assistance unit" all needy children who live in the same household under the care of one relative. Such grouping allows States to grant equal assistance to equally sized needy households, regardless of whether the children in the household are all siblings. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that federal law forbids States to equalize assistance in this manner. We disagree and accordingly reverse.

I

AFDC is a joint federal-state public assistance program authorized by Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, 49 Stat. 627, 42 U. S. C. 601 et seq. (1988 ed. and Supp. V). As its name indicates, the AFDC program "is designed to provide financial assistance to needy dependent children and the parents or relatives who live with and care for them." Shea v. Vialpando, 416 U. S. 251, 253 (1974). The program "reimburses each State which chooses to participate with a percentage of the funds it expends," so long as the State "administer[s] its assistance program pursuant to a state plan that conforms to applicable federal statutes and regulations." Heckler v. Turner, 470 U. S. 184, 189 (1985) (citing 42 U. S. C. 602, 603).

One applicable federal rule requires state plans to provide that all members of a nuclear family who live in the same household must apply for AFDC assistance if any one of them applies; in addition, the income of all of these applicants must be aggregated in determining their eligibility and the amount of their monthly benefits. See 42 U. S. C. 602(a)(38) (1988 ed., Supp. V); 45 CFR 206.10(a)(1)(vii) (1993). See generally Bowen v. Gilliard, 483 U. S. 587 (1987) (upholding rule against constitutional challenges). This "family filing unit rule" requires that all cohabiting nuclear family members be grouped into a single AFDC "assistance unit" (AU), defined by federal law as "the group of individuals whose income, resources and needs are considered as a unit for purposes of determining eligibility and the amount

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