Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement: 2000 and Beyond

Executive Summary

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,[1] 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 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[2] 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.[3] Discrimination remains pervasive in the American workplace, and equal opportunity is consistently denied.[4] 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.

[1] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, June 1995.

[2] Ibid., p. 4.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.