Name Change Won’t Fix Welfare

Pennsylvania’s welfare system is broken, and significant reforms are needed to help lift individuals out of poverty. Changing the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services won’t help the individuals the system is intended to serve. Here’s my letter to editor in the Observer-Reporter explaining why this change is superficial, not transformative:

Dear Editor,

Five of Pennsylvania’s former governors think that renaming the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) the “Department of Human Services” would take away the “stigma” associated with what it does, according to both a letter to the editor and an editorial that appeared in the Observer-Reporter. This is not the case: The stigma has nothing to do with the branding.

The Department of Public Welfare is a mess. Audits of welfare providers revealed millions in wasted tax dollars used to lease luxury vehicles and purchase items such as a chandelier, landscaping and a six-person hot tub. Last year, reviews of just three months of EBT card purchases uncovered 653 cases of out-of-state welfare fraud. And public welfare has eclipsed K-12 education as the largest item in the state budget without any reduction in poverty.

The department’s bad reputation can be chalked up to well-meaning but poorly designed programs that trap families in poverty while allowing others to get rich defrauding taxpayers. Rather than simply make aesthetic changes, lawmakers need to address the holes in our citizens’ safety net.

Elizabeth Stelle