Pa. welfare department name change poised for full Senate vote

“The current name of the [Public Welfare] department is both misleading and stigmatizing,” according to a senator. Credit: Wikipedia/Niagra
Legislation to change the name of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services passed the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday by a 9-2 vote.

Senate Bill 840, authored by Sen. Robert Mensch (R–Montgomery) and co-sponsored by 39 of 50 Senate members representing both sides of the political aisle, is now positioned for a full state Senate vote.

“The current name of the department is both misleading and stigmatizing,” Mensch said in a statement.

“Taking care of our neighbors with physical or intellectual disabilities is not welfare, it’s a societal responsibility.”

The law’s objective is “to bring Pennsylvania into alignment with other states’ human services departments and county offices that provide human services to vulnerable persons,” according to a release from advocacy coalition Campaign for What Works.

Similar legislation was introduced earlier this year in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 993, authored by Rep. Thomas Murt (R–Montgomery), has 109 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“The effort to change the name of the DPW to the Department of Human Services has been a massive statewide undertaking that has resulted in thousands of individuals and organizations joining together to publicly state their support of this important cause,” United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey President and CEO Jill Michal said in a statement.

“Having SB 840 move to the Senate floor is an exciting step towards accomplishing our shared goal: to give the DPW a name that truly reflects its important work.”

Once the bill passes the Senate, it still needs to be approved by the state House before going to the desk of Gov. Tom Corbett, who must then sign it into law.


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