Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement: 2000 and Beyond
With this report, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights demonstrates that inadequate funding levels for federal civil rights enforcement have occurred simultaneously with growing workloads at the agencies responsible for enforcing civil rights laws. As a result, the nationís civil rights laws, which protect against invidious discrimination and aim to ensure equal opportunity to all, are undermined and the enforcement of these laws continues to be threatened.
Beginning where the Commissionís 1995 report on funding for civil rights enforcement ended, this study analyzes the budgets of six principal civil rights agencies since fiscal year (FY) 1994. This report concludes that inadequate funding and staff levels persist in each of these agencies, thus restraining them from sufficiently fulfilling their duties. More specifically, the report findings include:
The U.S. Department of Education (DOEd): While annual complaints received by the DOEd Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have more than doubled over the past decade, staffing levels have fallen. The FY 1999 full-time-equivalent (FTE) position staffing level was 10 percent below the FY 1994 level. The FY 2001 budget request estimates that the staff level for DOEd/OCR will drop to 12 percent below the FY 1994 level. Overall, in actual dollars, DOEd/OCRís budget has increased by 26 percent. However, in terms of real spending power, the increase is only 12 percent. Further, these increases have not been sufficient to offset the increasing workload coupled with decreasing FTE levels.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): EEOC received over 10,000 more annual complaints this decade than it had during the 1980s. However, the requested FTE level for EEOC in FY 2001 is 10 percent below the actual FTE level in FY 1981. In FY 1999, EEOC had 239 fewer FTEs than in FY 1994. Concurrent with these changes in workload and staffing, EEOC has experienced fluctuations in budget appropriations. Although its budget has increased 22 percent in actual dollars since FY 1994, the increase has not been sufficient to address EEOCís burgeoning workload, including its complaints backlog. Further, the EEOC budget has not consistently experienced increases: overall, the budget declined in terms of real dollars between FY 1994 and FY 1998.
The U.S. Department of Labor: The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) experienced a 7.4 percent decrease in staff levels between FY 1994 and FY 1999. OFCCP resolved 61 percent fewer cases in FY 1999 than it had in FY 1994. Meanwhile, compliance reviews are expected to rise by 1.5 percent in FY 2000. Although, overall, the OFCCP budget has increased 16 percent in real terms since FY 1994, the agency experienced slight declines in real spending power between FY 1994 and FY 1997.
The U.S. Department of Justice: In real terms the FY 2000 budget request for the Civil Rights Division (CRD) was 24 percent higher than the FY 1994 request. However, over that same period, CRD experienced enormous growth in its workload and responsibilities. Yet, the slight increases in resources that CRD received during this time were not commensurate with its expanding workload. Further, although CRDís budget has increased by 22 percent in real terms overall since FY 1994, between FY 1995 and FY 1998, Congressional appropriations for CRD declined in real spending power.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): For FY 2001, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) predicts a rising complaint workload that will be parallel to the annual number of complaints received by the agency in FY 1994. However, while the FY 2001 request projects an FTE increase of 27 above the FY 1999 level, this number is still 47 FTEs below the FY 1994 level. In both actual and real terms, requests and appropriations for HHS/OCR have decreased overall since FY 1994.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) projects that the Title VIII complaint workload, continually rising, will be 15 percent greater in FY 2001 than it was in FY 1994. Yet, staff levels have decreased by 22 percent between FY 1994 and FY 2000. In real spending power, budget requests for FHEO have decreased by 11.4 percent during that period, while appropriations have fallen by 14.4 percent.
The Commissionís 1995 report on funding levels for federal civil rights enforcement warned that ďreductions in funding and staff continue to undermine our national enforcement of civil rights.Ē This current study concludes that the President and the Congress have continued to retreat from their obligation to ensure that adequate resources are provided for civil rights enforcement. As a result, federal civil rights agencies and the laws they enforce are increasingly endangered. Unfortunately, in this country, fundamental institutions such as educational establishments, housing, and nursing homes still regularly deny equal access to individuals based on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin. Discrimination remains pervasive in the American workplace, and equal opportunity is consistently denied. Throughout this nationís history, laws were created to protect against such invidious discrimination and, in turn, to further equality for all. The federal agencies that enforce these laws are the Untied Statesí principal means of ensuring that civil rights become a reality and the goals of these mandates are met. By limiting actual enforcement and damaging the deterrent effect of such enforcement, inadequate resources have continually undermined the essential responsibilities of federal civil rights agencies. Until the President and Congress remedy this situation, millions of individuals will be deprived of adequate means to seek justice and equal opportunity.
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), Funding Federal Civil Rights
Enforcement, June 1995.
Ibid., p. 4.
See USCCR, Federal Title VI Enforcement to Ensure
Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted Programs, June 1996; USCCR, Equal
Educational Opportunity Project Series, vols. IĖV; USCCR, The Health Care Challenge: Acknowledging Disparity, Confronting
Discrimination, and Ensuring Equality, September 1999.
 See USCCR, Helping Employers Comply with the ADA: An Assessment of How the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is Enforcing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, September 1998; USCCR, Helping State and Local Governments Comply with the ADA: An Assessment of How the United States Department of Justice is Enforcing Title II, Subpart A, of the Americans with Disabilities Act, September 1998; USCCR, Overcoming the Past, Focusing on the Future: An Assessment of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commissionís Enforcement Efforts, September 2000.