With its bustling ports, abundant resources, and rich culinary traditions, Louisiana should be thriving.  Unfortunately, the state’s rankings tell a different story. We have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, with 20% of the population relying on government aid and 44% on Medicaid. Our workforce participation rates are alarmingly low, and economic growth has been sluggish. It’s no wonder that many educated and skilled workers are leaving our state in droves.

While several factors have contributed to these challenges, much of it comes down to poor public policy decisions. Louisiana’s current system for safety nets and workforce services is disjointed and inefficient, offering little hope for improvement. Rather than a well-designed and integrated system that empowers individuals to achieve sustainable success, Louisiana has allowed complexity and fragmentation to persist.

As we welcome new leadership in the coming months, it is imperative that we prioritize overhauling our approach to poverty and workforce needs. However, true change can only happen with action at the federal level.

In a recent op-ed by the CEOs of the Pelican Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, they shed light on what Louisiana needs to break free from the flawed system of social safety net and workforce programs. They highlight the success of Utah’s innovative model, which integrates federal programs to swiftly transition individuals from welfare to work. Sadly, other states are prohibited from adopting this approach due to outdated regulations. It’s time for Congress to reform the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the governing law for federal workforce development programs, which is currently up for reauthorization. Since 1998, this law has imposed a “one-size-fits-all” system on states, resulting in failure.

Together, we can open One Door to self-sufficiency and pave the way for a brighter future for all Louisiana’s. Let’s call on our legislators to take action and unlock the opportunity that our state so desperately needs.