Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Welfare Secretary to Depart This Month

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Welfare Secretary to Depart This Month

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett's controversial public welfare secretary is leaving the administration, two sources with the knowledge of the decision have told The Inquirer.

Gary Alexander -- who oversees a department charged with helping 2.1 million elderly, poor and disabled Pennsylvanians -- will leave his $149,804-a-year post by the end of the month.

Reached for comment Monday afternoon, Mr. Alexander said he did not want to discuss his future, saying he preferred to focus on the annual budget address to the Legislature that Mr. Corbett is to deliver at 11:30 a.m. today.

One person familiar with his decision said the secretary wanted to be closer to his family in Rhode Island, where he held a state- government post before joining the Corbett administration in 2011.

It was not immediately clear who might replace Mr. Alexander in Harrisburg. A name mentioned as a possible successor is Beverly Mackereth, a former York County legislator who now heads DPW's office of child development and early learning.

During his two-year tenure, Mr. Alexander frequently has become a lightning rod for criticism of the administration's cuts to social welfare services -- particularly in his efforts to carry out a mandate to cut "waste, fraud and abuse" within the department.

In January 2012, Mr. Alexander announced the department was instituting an asset test, making the amount of food stamps people can receive contingent on the assets they possess. The move bucked national trends, favored by both Democrats and Republicans, to eliminate such tests because of what critics called the punitive impact on elderly people saving for their burials, poor people trying to save enough to escape poverty, and working- and middle- class people who lost their jobs in the recession and would have to liquidate assets to feed their families. …

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