Romney Leads Bill to Lift People Out of Social Safety Net and Into Workforce

WASHINGTON—Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today introduced the One Door to Work Act, legislation which 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. Representative Burgess Owens (R-UT) previously introduced the One Door to Work Act in the House, a version of which passed out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in December 2023.

“More than 25 years ago, Utah implemented a plan to integrate federal workforce funds with existing social safety net programs within one entity, the Department of Workforce Services. Since then, Utah’s model has successfully helped scores of workers rise up out of poverty and back into the workforce,” Senator Romney said. “It is also in large part why our state had the quickest job recovery in the nation after the pandemic. I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which will give states the needed flexibility to follow Utah’s lead in empowering folks to get themselves out of the social safety net and into work.”

“Despite an abundance of job openings, our workforce participation rate has plummeted, leaving many Americans on the sidelines,”said Rep. Owens. “That’s why I introduced the One Door to Work Act in the House, mirroring Utah’s successful model, to empower states and local workforce boards with the flexibility to enact vital reforms. By establishing a state innovation authority under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), we enable proactive pursuit of innovative solutions, bridging gaps between workforce and temporary programs, and creating a streamlined one-stop shop for social and workforce services. This Act serves as a beacon of hope for Americans seeking a return to the workforce, urging nationwide adoption of Utah’s proven successes.”

“We’re grateful to Senator Romney for his work to expand the Utah workforce model to the rest of the country,” said Governor Cox. “Utah has long had the most successful one-stop-shop for integrating federal safety net and workforce programs so job seekers can get high-quality career services, training and education, and businesses can find those workers. This is part of the reason Utah recovered from the pandemic faster than any other state. Senator Romney’s legislation will allow all other states the same flexibility.”

“The flexibility afforded by our integrated model is invaluable to serving Utah’s job seekers, families and employers,” said Casey Cameron, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “The One Door to Work Act would allow states and localities around the country to adopt Utah’s successful model to better serve their communities.”

“Every state should have the flexibility to design an integrated workforce and safety-net model that enables people to succeed. 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,” said Randy Hicks, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

“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 Executive Officer of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“A robust workforce is not only integral to a thriving state economy, but also to its social fabric. 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,” said Daniel Erspamer, Chief Executive Officer of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy.


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 much 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.