A measure to change the name of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare has passed a state House committee despite concerns about the cost.
The acting secretary of DPW has said renaming the agency the Department of Human Services would cost $8 million, most of which would cover changes to computer programs.
It’s a surprising estimate, said Rep. Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery, given that three years ago, a fiscal analysis of such a move pegged the cost at $500,000.
“If it comes up that it’s several million dollars to move this on, I’ll withdraw the bill. But I think we need to move this on,” he said.
Lawmakers voting against the proposal say they’re concerned agency funds could go into the name change instead of services.
Others say changing the name would confuse clients, since the agency would continue using signs, stationary, and computer programs with the old name until the next routine upgrade or until supplies run out.
Supporters say removing “welfare” from DPW’s name would take away an unnecessary stigma about the agency and its clients.
But Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, says the name change could be confusing without removing any negative connotation.
“I think people would still call it welfare anyways. 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,” Roae said. “But any grocery store you go into, there’s a sign, ‘We accept food stamps.'”