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CPBJ Extra Blog

A welfare case study in perception

By - Last modified: March 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM
Brent Burkey
Brent Burkey

Efforts in the state legislature are moving forward to rename the state Department of Public Welfare because, in the words of supporters, a low percentage of the department's programs are what could be characterized as welfare.

In the House, a bill to make the switch to the state Department of Human Services has passed the legislative body's Human Services Committee. In the Senate, lawmakers recently announced a bipartisan proposal to make a change.

I went back and forth, being a reporter, on whether this was just public relations spin and, as such, a pointless venture in the long run without real substance. And some worry has been expressed on its cost — about $8 million, according to the acting secretary.

That's some expensive spin when state money is so tight, even though sponsors have said the measures would have cost savings such as phasing in the new name and exhausting existing materials.

But then I began to think about it.

What if other agenices had to market themselves solely with parts of what they do, which maybe have been the source of eye rolls, complaints or even reform efforts?

The Department of Unemployment Compensation Benefits?

The Department of Environmental Permit Decision Expedition?

The Department of Cattle Chutes and Detours?

I'm sure that if this actually gets read, I'll have three unhappy phone calls this afternoon. But, that's exactly my point.

Doing business, even in government, is hard enough. Let alone if so many people might have a bad taste in their mouths for something that just so happens to become the public face of everything you do.

If I had to pick a brand name in today's climate, "welfare" would indeed be pretty far down the list.

Brent Burkey covers retail, tourism, and Lebanon and York counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at You can also follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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