Utah has successfully implemented a “One Door” model that consolidates over 36 workforce and welfare services into a single Department of Workforce Services, benefiting both recipients and administrators. The state’s employment-to-population ratio has increased significantly since adopting this model, and their unemployment rate dropped quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to the rest of the U.S. However, federal policies currently prevent other states from adopting this model, despite its demonstrated success and the desire of states like Texas, Louisiana, and Maine to do so.
The U.S. Government’s Welfare and Workforce Programs: Challenges and Potential Solutions
The U.S. federal government maintains over 90 welfare and workforce assistance programs spanning various agencies. These programs extend to numerous state and local institutions. However, navigating through this web of services can be daunting and often leaves Americans stuck rather than supporting them towards work and upward mobility.
Imagine having the opportunity to access all these programs via a single platform instead of dealing with several agencies. Utah has successfully developed such a “One Door” model, streamlined over 25 years. Unfortunately, federal regulations currently prohibit other states from adopting similar strategies.
Utah’s Successful One Door Model
In 1997, Utah combined its welfare and workforce training programs into a single Department of Workforce Services. The state has managed to consolidate over 36 services, including unemployment insurance, food aid, health care, and cash assistance, under this umbrella. Utah residents can now access all related services through a single point of contact and work with a single employment counselor.
Aside from simplifying the process for beneficiaries, Utah’s model also streamlines operations for administrators. As explained in the “The Utah Model” toolkit by Mason Bishop, the model’s success is grounded in innovative governance and financial management strategies.
Moreover, the model’s effectiveness is evident in Utah’s employment-to-population ratio. Since implementing “One Door,” Utah’s advantage has grown, currently standing at 7.3 points while the U.S. average is 60.1%.
Utah’s Response to COVID-19 Unemployment
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread unemployment, Utah’s integrated services swiftly provided unemployment benefits while promoting rapid reemployment. By contrast, most states grappled with outdated unemployment insurance systems, leading to massive fraud and abuse. As a result, by December 2020, Utah’s unemployment rate was 3.6% compared to the national average of 6.7%.
The Impact of Utah’s Model on the Economy
Utah’s model has significantly contributed to the economy, with a real inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) increase of 24.3% between 2017 and 2022, twice the national average. Moreover, as the federal debt escalates, Utah’s debt has reached a 35-year low in 2023, even with significant tax cuts.
Possible Expansion of the One Door Model
Although Utah’s system shows promising results, federal law currently limits other states from adopting similar methods. The House of Representatives recently passed the Stronger Workforce for America Act, offering limited opportunities for states to adopt “One Door” policies. With millions of workers on the sidelines and families feeling trapped in welfare, no state should be prevented from helping more people into meaningful work.
It is crucial for policymakers to expand “One Door” integration to any interested state. One way to do this would be to include the One Door to Work Act in the bipartisan Stronger Workforce for America Act.