Our maze of safety net and workforce programs, while well-intended, have not delivered on the aims of adequately helping Americans enter the workforce. Congress has a chance to empower states to provide better outcomes for their citizens in this year’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorization, House bill H.R. 6655

States are facing a work crisis, and more Americans than ever are on the sidelines. There are 8.9 million open jobs in this country, and the workforce participation rate has not fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states have not fully rebounded. By the end of 2023, there were 41 million Americans relying on food stamps and nearly 90 million Americans relying on Medicaid. Many citizens remain on the sidelines even as our employers cannot find workers to fill jobs. Our top priority must be to solve our workforce crisis. 

There is a better way, proven by one state that has enjoyed flexibility from the federal programs: Utah. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and millions of Americans lost their jobs, most states struggled with outdated unemployment insurance systems that prevented them from quickly delivering benefits to those in need (and also resulting in massive fraud and abuse). Meanwhile, Utah’s integration of services and ability to shift resources allowed the state to deliver unemployment benefits quickly while also promoting rapid reemployment by connecting directly with 40% of unemployment insurance claimants and letting them know how the Department of Workplace Services could help them find a job,” from the Daily Signal.

Signers from 17 states and major national think tanks signed a coalition letter asking Congress to give every state the flexibility that Utah currently utilizes to great success. Congress must change federal law and create a One-Door State Option in federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as included in the bipartisan H.R. 6655 and introduced by Representative Burgess Owens (UT) and Senator Mitt Romney (UT) in the One Door to Work Act (H.R. 6274 and S. 3825). This would give our states the flexibility to integrate our safety net and workforce systems and move more citizens out of poverty and into work.  

Read the full letter here: