Who Is Enforcing Civil Rights in Arkansas: Is There a Need for a State Civil Rights Agency?

Chapter 3

What Are the Costs of Establishing a State Human Rights Agency?

As with any new idea, program, policy consideration, expansion of an existing agency, or the establishment of a new agency, the question of cost is crucial. The Arkansas Advisory Committee asked Claude Rogers, past president of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies and former director of the St. Louis, Missouri, Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, to discuss funding considerations.

Mr. Rogers said that if the Arkansas Legislature is serious about having a human rights agency, then state lawmakers should ensure that such an agency is funded and staffed properly. Factors that should be considered are the amount of funding, the number of persons needed to staff a well-run agency, the agency’s jurisdictional authority, and the average number of discrimination complaints expected each year. If a local agency is established and covers a limited area, the start-up costs and operating budget costs will be less than a statewide agency.[1] For example, an enforcement agency in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, had an operating budget of about $600,000, versus a statewide agency operating budget that ranged between $1 million and $1.5 million.[2] Other factors to be considered are the number of area offices that will be needed throughout the state and the number of people needed to staff each office effectively.[3]

Mr. Rogers suggested that agency resources be organized around the types of complaints that will be investigated.[4] He recommended separate investigative units for employment and housing cases. Public accommodations complaints generally can be merged into the housing unit.[5]

Mr. Rogers stressed the importance of having state civil rights laws that are substantially equivalent to EEOC and HUD requirements so that the state is eligible for federal funding.[6] Federal reimbursement is only possible if the state agency has been certified to receive and investigate complaints.[7] According to human rights directors in Tennessee and Nebraska, start-up costs usually range between $300,000 and $500,000 depending on the size of the state and how the agency is organized.[8] HUD reimburses state agencies $1,200 per complaint referral, and EEOC reimburses $550 per complaint.[9] For example, from 1996 to 1998, HUD received 188 complaints from Arkansas, averaging 73 complaints per year. Based on that average, the state agency could have received up to $87,600 per year from HUD.[10] EEOC received 4,220 complaints during that same period, averaging 1,406 complaints per year. Based on this average, the state agency could have received up to $733,300 per year.[11] Mr. Rogers stressed that federal funds should not be the only funding source; other public and private funding sources should also be used to support the operations of the agency.[12]

[1] Arkansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, fact-finding meeting, Little Rock, AR, Sept. 23–24, 1998, transcript (hereafter cited as Transcript). Claude Rogers, Transcript, vol. 1, pp. 34–36.

[2] Ibid., p. 34.

[3] Ibid., pp. 34–35.

[4] Ibid., p. 35.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., pp. 35–36.

[7] Alabama Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, From the Dream of the Sixties to the Vision of the Nineties—The Case for An Alabama Human Relations Commission, December 1992, p. 11.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.; Claude Rogers, telephone interview, Nov. 5, 1999.

[10] Jamie K. Jamison, director, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Southwest Region, information submitted, Sept. 1, 1998.

[11] Wanda Milton, supervisory investigator, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Little Rock Area Office, information submitted, July 23, 1998.

[12] Claude Rogers, Transcript, vol. 1, pp. 34–36.