Romney Highlights & Garners Support for His One Door to Work Act

Legislation would allow other states and localities to implement Utah’s model to consolidate workforce development and social safety net programs into one entity

WASHINGTON—At a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) highlighted the importance of his legislation to lift people out of the social safety net and into the workforce. Romney’s One Door to Work Act would allow states the flexibility to implement Utah’s successful model of consolidating federal workforce development and social safety net programs within a single state entity—like Utah’s Department of Workforce Services—to help unemployed workers reintegrate more quickly into the workforce.

An excerpt of Senator Romney’s remarks at the hearing can be found below, and full video is available here.

Senator Romney: A governor smarter than me, Mike Leavitt of Utah, had an idea which was instead of having all these offices separate—the job training, and the TANF, and the housing, and so forth—let’s have one office and let that one office help an individual that became unemployed.

And that worked extremely well for the State of Utah. That unfortunately is prohibited under law at the federal level. We can’t put those offices together. And only one state was grandfathered to allow that to occur and that was the State of Utah. I have introduced a piece of legislation which is known as the “One Door to Work Act,” which would allow as many as [eight] other states to be able to also do what Utah does, which is have a one stop place where individuals can go to get help with unemployment, housing, TANF, food stamps, as well as job training.

Mr. Dickerson, you come from Louisiana. Louisiana is one of the states that said “we would love to be able to do that.” And I’m delighted that, for instance, the Ranking Member and other members of this Committee support this idea. Is that something which you believe would be helpful in your state?

Mr. Matthew Dickerson: Yes, sir. That’s the work of our Louisiana Workforce and Social Service Reform Task Force that was put together by the Governor and our Secretary of Workforce and Department of Child and Family Services, as well. And it’s both sides of it. It’s not only for the employee, but also for the employer. But to your point, one challenge that we’ve heard in our conversations at the local level around the one door policy is to make sure that those “One Stop Centers” are appropriately staffed to accommodate all of those services and that those staff members are educated so that when that individual does come in, they not only get access to the services, but the service delivery mechanism is there to meet them. And that’s something we would support.

Romney: Excellent. I would just note one more thing, which is that Governor Leavitt and the Utah program assigns a caseworker. As soon as someone becomes unemployed, they get a caseworker that begins helping them with everything from the support they need for safety net services at the same time to lay out a plan for getting them back into the workforce and training. It’s an extraordinary program working well in the State of Utah, and I’m delighted that the Ranking Member and others in this Committee support this idea of letting at least [eight] of the states get the chance to try this on a temporary basis and see if it’s working well for them. I know Louisiana, Texas, other states have said, “please let us do this.”


Currently, most federal workforce development funds bypass state agencies and are sent directly to local workforce boards. As a result, in most states, the administration of workforce development and social safety net programs remains highly fragmented and inefficient.

In 1997, under Governor Mike Leavitt, Utah implemented a unique model which consolidated the management of federal workforce funds and social safety net programs under one organization, the Department of Workforce Services. In 1998, Congress passed a law that grandfathered-in Utah, but prevented other states from implementing a similar model. For more than 25 years, the “one-door” Utah model has led to better results and higher efficiencies in lifting people out of social safety net programs and into the workforce.

When an individual or family comes to the Department of Workforce Services, they are assigned one caseworker who helps them navigate Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and job training services. The caseworker is then able to focus on the needs of the individual or family and help them develop a plan to transition to achieve self-reliance more quickly. The benefits of the Utah model also contributed to the state having the fastest employment recovery in the nation after the pandemic.

Text of the One Door to Work Act can be found here and a one pager can be found here.