Pa. Welfare Secretary: Name change would cost $8 million

What’s in a name? A lot.

Changing the name of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services would cost $8 million, the department’s acting secretary said Tuesday.

State Rep. Thomas Murt (R-152nd) has been working on a plan and gathering support to make the change, citing the stigma associated with the name of the department. More than 80 House members are co-sponsors of the legislation.

“Very little of what the Department of Public Welfare does really falls into the category of welfare as we know it,” said Murt.

Murt said changing the name would help in modernizing the department and better reflect what it does.

You can read the legislation by clicking here.

Department spokeswoman Anne Bale said the cost to make the change would be due largely to technology costs.

“The department has very sophisticated computer programs in place to determine eligibility, to track our customers. We deal a lot with health care. So, it’s very sophisticated computer programming,” said Bale. “That is a very conservative estimate that we came up with.”

Bale said Acting Secretary Beverly Mackereth agrees with the idea that the name no longer reflects the many functions of the department but said in light of budget constraints the money would be better spent elsewhere.

“We have to focus our limited resources on the programs we have, and we can’t get involved in a name change,” said Bale.

Murt said he believes the cost issues have been resolved. His bill calls for the department only to replace things like stationery and signs when they run out or wear out. IT upgrades would be done when they’re routinely scheduled, not strictly to account for the department’s name change.

“If the $8 million refers to changing the name in our website from DPW to Human Services, I would be very suspect of that. Perhaps there is some cost we have not anticipated, but I don’t believe there are,” said Murt.

The House Human Services Committee will hold a committee vote on the bill Wednesday at the Capitol. A specific time is not set. According to the House Republican Caucus website, the meeting will begin at the “call of the chair, expected at the first recess of session.”