DPW Name Change Advances Amid Cost Concerns

Mar 20, 2013

A measure to change the name of the state Department of Public Welfare has passed a state House committee amid concerns of the potential costs of a switch.

Earlier this week, the acting secretary of DPW said renaming the agency the Department of Human Services would cost $8 million, most of which would be spent on changes to computer programs.

But Republican state Rep. Thomas Murt of Montgomery County said he’s surprised by the estimate, given that three years ago, a fiscal analysis of such a move pegged the cost at half a million dollars.

"If it comes up that it’s several million dollars to move this on, I’ll withdraw the bill," Murt said. "But I think we need to move this on."

Supporters say removing “welfare” from DPW’s name would take away an unnecessary stigma about the agency and its clients. But lawmakers voting against the proposal said they’re concerned agency funds could go into the name change instead of services.

Murt said his proposal would minimize costs for the department by requiring that it not replace materials with the old name until those materials are exhausted or are due for a routine upgrade.

Republican state Rep. Brad Roae of Crawford County said he thinks a name change could be confusing without removing any negative connotation.

"I think people would still call it welfare anyways," Roae said. "I mean, how many years ago did they change ‘food stamps’ to SNAP? It was several years ago. There’s no such thing as food stamps anymore. But any grocery store you go into, there’s a sign: ‘We accept food stamps.’"