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U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney’s ‘One Door’ bill would allow states to integrate social safety net with workforce development

PEACHTREE CORNERS, GA—U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has introduced a bill that would free up the 50 states to implement a “One Door” safety-net reform strategy similar to the very successful model created in Utah. As part of the Alliance for Opportunity, a coalition of groups seeking to drive state-level change in the safety-net system, the Georgia Center for Opportunity is in full support of the bill.

U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, has previously introduced a “One Door” bill in the House, a version of which passed out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in December.

Despite a historically low unemployment rate across the country, states are still facing a workforce crisis with millions of able-bodied Americans on the economic sidelines. Our nation’s workforce participation rate has not fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2023, 41 million Americans relied on food stamps to make ends meet and nearly 90 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid.

Many of these Americans remain stuck in a safety-net system that simply doesn’t work. The One Door to Work Act, introduced by Sen. Romney on Feb. 28, would allow states the flexibility to implement Utah’s consolidation of federal workforce development and social safety-net programs into a single state entity. The end goal is to help work-capable recipients reintegrate more quickly into the workforce, empowering them to achieve the independence, stability, and purpose that are crucial to human well-being.

“Every state should have the flexibility to design an integrated workforce and safety-net model that enables people to succeed,” said Randy Hicks, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “Every hour a safety-net recipient spends finding their way through the system is an hour they can’t spend working their way into opportunity. The One Door to Work Act allows states to create a system that works for people.”

The dozens of programs that make up the system have different and, at times, competing goals, inconsistent rules, and overlapping groups of recipients. Often, recipients must resubmit the same information multiple times for multiple programs with the aid of multiple caseworkers. This disconnect fosters despair and keeps recipients in a cycle of poverty—as every hour spent navigating the system is an hour not spent pursuing a path out of it.

What’s more, there is often a disconnect between safety-net programs and welfare-to-work initiatives. The end result is that people stay mired in generational poverty rather than receiving a helping hand to live a better life. The One Door to Work Act would free up state governments to explore ways to create a safety net that works for all citizens and doesn’t cause generational poverty.

“There are 8.7 million open jobs in this country, and the workforce participation rate has not fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. States need the flexibility in the One Door to Work Act to use our workforce dollars to move our people off the sidelines,” said Greg Sindelar, executive director and chief operating officer of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is a member of the Alliance for Opportunity.

 “A robust workforce is not only integral to a thriving state economy, but also to its social fabric,” added Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, also a member of the Alliance. “When a person is unemployed for longer than six months, it is associated with decreased well-being, even measurably affecting mortality. The One Door to Work Act gives workers, employers, and taxpayers the system that they deserve.”

Learn more about the “One Door” policy here.



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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