Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement: 2000 and Beyond
Letter of Transmittal
The President of the Senate
The Speaker of the House of Representatives
Adequate funding is essential to civil rights enforcement. Enforcement of civil rights laws of the United States by the federal government is crucial to the effort to ensure equality in access to jobs, housing, education, and services, as well as in the administration of justice. While constant evaluation of policy and efficient deployment of available resources are necessary, these responsibilities cannot be done without appropriate funding.
This study follows the 1995 report, Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, which demonstrated that resources provided for civil rights enforcement lag behind the workloads of the civil rights enforcement agencies. That report also showed that the workload of the civil rights enforcement agencies had increased between 1981 and 1996.
However, not much has changed. Although some agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, have received recent budget increases, many agencies experienced decreases in funding prior to fiscal year 1998 or have received small increases as their workloads have expanded. Among the most disturbing findings:
While annual complaints received by the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, have more than doubled over the past decade, staffing levels have fallen. The fiscal year (FY) 2001 budget request estimates a staff level 12 percent below the FY 1994 level.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the Department of Labor experienced a 7.4 percent decrease in staff levels between FY 1994 and FY 1999, and, accordingly, resolved 61 percent fewer cases in FY 1999 than it had in FY 1994.
In real spending power (i.e., accounting for inflation), budget requests for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, have decreased by 11.4 percent between FY 1994 and FY 2000, while appropriations have dropped by 14.4 percent.
Budget requests and appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, have decreased overall since FY 1994, in both actual and real terms.
While agencies have made adjustments to account for reductions in resources—or insufficient resources—many key civil rights enforcement tools have been abandoned. Limited funding results in fewer compliance reviews conducted, abbreviated investigations, less policy development, and less defense of civil rights laws in court. These factors in combination with others have hindered the provision of services to victims of unlawful discrimination.
We urge you to ensure that the federal civil rights agencies can fulfill their mandates of effective enforcement of federal civil rights laws. This can be done only with the adequate provision of resources.
For the Commissioners,