Georgia Needs To Enact This Reform

Today, we (my employer) were able to get an op-ed placed on the RealClearPolicy website. The topic is something we’ve been working on for a number of years now. I’ll provide some context, but first, here’s this from the op-ed:

Utah’s approach is worth replicating in other states, but the federal government needs to get on board. As it stands, the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a barrier to states integrating systems like Utah did because it makes it difficult for states to integrate workforce programs into the holistic system. We need Congress to expand the one-door option for all states in the next WIOA authorization.

At that point, it’s up to individual state leaders to get onboard and work to consolidate welfare programs and integrate them with workforce-readiness initiatives. States like Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana are looking to implement these types of policies.

The context is this: America’s safety net system is messed up. It’s contains numerous “cliffs” that force recipients to choose between a raise or the loss of benefits. In many cases, the benefits they would lose are far greater in annual income than the raise they would get. What would a working Mother do when deciding between a raise, and the loss of SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, or child care assistance? They choose to turn down the raise and stay in the lower paying job. Or they work fewer hours per week, or sometimes they quit their job. #Sad.

You can learn more about safety net cliffs at our dedicated cliffs website.

And, you don’t have to take our work for it, the Atlanta Federal Reserve reached the same conclusion we did.

As our article points out, there is another way to deliver these services. Utah has all of their safety net and workforce development programs in one state department. Utah’s “one door” system allows them to work with a person, not just on what mix of safety net assistance they need, but also on job training programs they may qualify for. This opens up the opportunity for the recipient to that get into a better paying job and on a path toward self-sufficiency. We need the safety net system to be one that rewards work and allows people to earn their way out of poverty via employment.

In reference to the pull quote above, we at the Georgia Center for Opportunity have been working on solutions states and the federal government can implement to begin to fix this broken system. We’ve been working with members of Congress to give states the ability via WIOA to integrate workforce programs into a holistic safety net system like Utah. We’ve also been working with allies in other states. Louisiana’s Republican Legislature has passed a resolution urging their Democratic Governor to explore these reforms. Texas meanwhile has a bill to form a One Door Task Force to map out a path to a Utah style system.

Georgia also has a bill alive to create a One Door Task Force. HB 738 was introduced by Rep. Scott Hilton during the recently completed session. We’re hoping to get the bill moving and passed in January.

It’s hard work for policy makers, but Georgia’s citizens would benefit greatly from integrated delivery of safety net and workforce programs. We at the Georgia Center for Opportunity stand ready to help make that happen.

UPDATE: The Alliance for Opportunity, which GCO is a part of, has produced this video explaining the One Door idea.

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