Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement: 2000 and Beyond

Letter of Transmittal

The President
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: 

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,

Mary Frances Berry