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U.S. House passes a bill that’s a step toward ‘One Door’ social safety-net reforms

PEACHTREE CORNERS, GA—Yesterday, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House passed ​H.R. 6655, a Stronger Workforce for America Act, which establishes a crucial demonstration waiver for a handful of states to implement safety-net reforms similar to Utah’s “One Door” policy. As a member of the coalition group the Alliance for Opportunity, the Georgia Center for Opportunity has played an important role in educating lawmakers on the perils of the current social safety net that creates barriers to work and upward mobility.

H.R. 6655 revises the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for the first time since 2014. The bill would give four states leeway to explore a “One Door” safety-net reform strategy similar to Utah’s model enacted in the 1990s. Utah consolidated federal workforce development and social safety-net programs into a single state entity and fully integrated the safety-net system into workforce development programs.

“This is an important first step toward improving the social safety-net in all 50 states and breaking down barriers to work and a flourishing life,” said Randy Hicks, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “The next step is to broaden the scope to allow every state to explore ways to integrate workforce and safety-net programs. These reforms are badly needed. There are 8.9 million open jobs across the U.S., and the workforce participation rate hasn’t fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. We must create a safety-net system that doesn’t trap people in generational poverty but provides a pathway to a better life.”

Under H.R. 6655, the five-year innovation waiver is only available to states with populations of less than six million and a labor force participation rate below 60%. According to the Alliance for Opportunity, currently only nine states fit the bill: Louisiana, West Virginia, Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Maine, Kentucky, and New Mexico.

Under the current version of WIOA, states are barred from implementing such reforms. Utah was grandfathered in and is the only exception.

The bill contains another potential pathway toward a One Door model as well. Three years after enactment of the law, any state’s governor can consolidate workforce programs into one entity, but doing so would require the approval of half of the chairpersons of local workforce boards.

“These reforms would advance the end goal for every work-capable individual in a safety-net program to participate in effective employment and training programs,” added Hicks. “Numerous studies show that the benefits of work extend well beyond finances, encompassing overall wellbeing and a host of other benefits. One Door reforms will help ensure we have a system that encourages people to find work and improve their lives.”




Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is independent, non-partisan, and solutions-focused. Our team is dedicated to creating opportunities for a quality education, fulfilling work, and a healthy family life for all Georgians. To achieve our mission, we research ways to help remove barriers to opportunity in each of these pathways, promote our solutions to policymakers and the public, and help effective and innovative social enterprises deliver results in their communities.

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