The “One Door to Work” legislation, now part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), working its way through Congress, represents a significant step toward reforming the nation’s workforce and social safety net systems. The legislation aims to grant certain states, including Louisiana, a waiver that will allow them to integrate various federally-funded social and workforce services, thereby enhancing their overall efficiency and effectiveness in meeting their goals of eliminating poverty and strengthening our nation’s economic competitiveness. The widespread bipartisan support for this proposal at the federal level, combined with Louisiana’s bold plans to reform the same through Governor Landry’s Louisiana Workforce and Social Services Reform Task Force (LA WASS), demonstrates a concerted effort to achieve better outcomes for Louisiana’s most vulnerable citizens.

Federal “One Door to Work” Legislation

The WIOA legislation, including “One Door to Work”, which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently pending in the U.S. Senate, has garnered broad, bipartisan consensus on the need for reform in how workforce and social services are delivered. On June 12, 2024, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on the bill, featuring key testimonies from experts including Matthew Dickerson and Dr. Monty Sullivan from Louisiana.

Matthew Dickerson, an industry representative from northeast Louisiana, emphasized the importance of reducing bureaucratic hurdles that prevent individuals from accessing necessary services. He pointed out that the current fragmented system often leads to inefficiencies and delays, hindering the efforts of those trying to enter the workforce. Dickerson’s testimony highlighted how the One Door to Work Act would consolidate access points, making it easier for individuals to receive the support they need without navigating a complex web of government agencies administering disconnected programs and case management.

Dr. Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, underscored the critical role of education and training in workforce development. He noted that great jobs of today and tomorrow require education and training beyond a high school diploma, and by simultaneously streamlining access to social services, individuals (and students enrolled in the state’s technical and community colleges) could focus more on learning and skill acquisition and less on bureaucratic red tape that leaves them with inadequate supports to meet self-sufficiency goals. He pointed to successful pilot programs in Louisiana that have already demonstrated the benefits of a more integrated approach to service delivery.

Louisiana’s Readiness for Reform

The One Door to Work legislation is closely aligned with the objectives of the Louisiana Workforce and Social Services Reform Task Force (LA WASS), created by Governor Landry’s executive order. This task force was established to identify and implement strategies that improve the coordination of workforce and social safety net programs in Louisiana.

Governor Landry has charged the task force with developing the same kind of state-level blueprint that the One Door to Work legislation seeks to open across several states. The Pelican Institute has documented Louisiana’s efforts to pursue the “one door” solution, highlighting the potential to lift residents out of poverty by reducing administrative barriers and enhancing access to opportunity.

Pelican has championed the use of independent, comprehensive performance audits of existing workforce and social services programs to identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement. These audits have been instrumental in shaping the federal proposal, ensuring that it is grounded in practical, evidence-based strategies.

Broader Support and Implications

By providing a more integrated and efficient system, the One Door to Work model aims to remove barriers to employment and support, ultimately fostering a more robust and inclusive workforce. This reform isn’t just about reducing poverty; it’s about empowering individuals to achieve economic independence and stability, which benefits them, Louisiana, and our nation.

It’s a model for national reform, demonstrating the potential benefits of integrated services and a streamlined approach to serving people in need in a comprehensive manner—with all services aimed at achieving the same positive end goal of self-sufficiency and prosperity.