Federal Agencies' Block Grant Civil Rights Enforcement Efforts:

a Status Report

HRD-84-82: Published: Sep 28, 1984. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of the block grants established by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 to determine the civil rights enforcement policies and procedures of the three federal agencies that administer the programs.

The civil rights statutes applicable to most of the programs prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, or handicap. The act requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to refer its findings of noncompliance to governors to obtain voluntary resolution before HHS proceeds with formal enforcement action. In addition, states applying for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants must certify that they will conform to federal civil rights requirements and review grant recipients' compliance. GAO found that, under the act, the federal agencies have retained responsibility for civil rights enforcement and the extent of state involvement in the enforcement varies. HHS has not increased the states' role in complaint investigations and compliance reviews because of the states' lack of resources. HUD has not significantly changed its policies or procedures for investigating complaints and has retained the authority for determining recipients' civil rights compliance. The Department of Education's civil rights policies have remained unchanged for its block grant programs. Because the implementation of block grants did not begin until 1982, it is too early to draw conclusions about block grant civil rights compliance or law enforcement difficulties. However, potential law enforcement problems are anticipated because of the difficulty in determining block grant funding sources.

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