State Lawmakers Mull Name Change for Department of Public Welfare

Mar 18, 2013

A state House committee is expected to vote on a plan to change the name of the state Department of Public Welfare.

A plan aiming to change the agency’s name never made it past the House Committee on Human Services last session.

But this time around, more than half of the members on the committee support the measure to give the Department of Public Welfare a makeover and change its name to the Department of Human Services.

Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery County), is sponsoring identical legislation in the state Senate.

He said DPW’s current name comes with a negative connotation it doesn’t deserve.

"You know if you see Department of Transportation, you understand what they do," Mensch said. "But we could also call it the Department of Potholes, and then every pothole you see, you blame Transportation, you see? So let’s broaden the dialogue, let’s broaden the discussion about what the department does."

DPW’s acting secretary, Bev Mackereth, said at a recent budget hearing her only concern with the name change is the potential expense.

"If it didn’t cost anything, it would be great and we certainly agree with that," she said, "but to take any dollars away from the consumers is where we’re having a problem."

Mackereth says her staff hasn’t yet figured out what a name change would cost the agency.

But Mensch said it could keep costs down by implementing a gradual change-over, using up the last of the stationary and business cards under the old name before ordering new letterhead.

Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa has joined Mensch as a co-sponsor on the bill.

Both the House and Senate measures have bipartisan support, as well as the support of five former Pennsylvania governors and several former secretaries of the agency.