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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Federal Agencies Issue Joint Guidance to Help Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Providers Comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

The Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security and Transportation today issued joint guidance to help ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance do not discriminate against individuals and communities on the basis of race, color or nation origin when providing emergency preparedness, response and recovery services.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in federally-funded programs or activities.  Discrimination in a recipient’s emergency response measures violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The guidance suggests a series of steps recipients can adopt now to ensure compliance: 

  • Share information about housing, health services or other emergency-related services and nondiscrimination rights to diverse racial, ethnic and Limited English Proficient (LEP) populations;
  • Engage with and seek input from diverse racial, ethnic and LEP populations to determine how best to tailor emergency planning, response and recovery efforts; 
  • Widely disseminate evacuation and disaster preparedness plans, including to LEP populations;
  • Ensure that all entities know that most public services for protection of life and safety provided by recipients of federal financial assistance do not have immigration status restrictions; and
  • Routinely collect and analyze information about the potentially affected populations to help ensure effective, nondiscriminatory allocation of resources and services. 

“In times of emergency, the law requires that federal funding recipients provide equal services to all people and all communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “This guidance will help ensure that individuals in need of assistance are not discriminated against during future hurricanes, wildfires and other catastrophic events.”

“Our guidance reminds recipients that Title VI compliance obligations are not up for debate,” said Director Leslie Proll of the Departmental Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Transportation.  “It applies at all times and cannot be waived before, during, or in the aftermath of emergencies and disasters.”  

Additionally, two new resources are being issued today to assist recipients of federal financial assistance: the Department of Justice’s Tips and Tools for Reaching Limited English Proficient Communities in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery; and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Checklist for Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance, which facilitates the integration of the whole community into emergency-related activities.

“Discriminatory practices in health care can be life-threatening and this is especially true in emergencies and disaster situations,” said Director Jocelyn Samuels of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.  “This guidance will help leaders in the emergency management community understand their obligations under Title VI and the critical steps they can take to best serve the whole community, including individuals with access and functional needs.”

Both resources and the guidance can be found on the agencies’ websites and the new civil rights section of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website at www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/26070.

“Discrimination has no place in the disaster response and recovery process.” said Director Willisa Donald of FEMA’s Office of Equal Rights.  “Everyone must be treated equally when it comes to supporting survivors in their greatest time of need and this guidance will build on our work to make sure those we partner with share our values of fairness and equality.”

“Complying with Title VI requirements, as well as requirements to ensure equal access to persons with disabilities as required by federal civil rights law, becomes even more important during emergencies and disasters in order to ensure that no one is unjustly denied critical services and support,” said Megan H. Mack, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security.  “The guidance embraces the principles of the National Preparedness Goal and National Planning Frameworks in which the federal government seeks to enable the whole community, including but not limited to those from racial and ethnically diverse backgrounds, and persons with limited English proficiency, to contribute to and benefit from national preparedness.”

“Families who lose their homes to natural disasters shouldn’t have their loss compounded by discrimination at a time when they are struggling to put that essential component of their lives back together,” said Gustavo F. Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  “The joint guidance makes it clear that recipients of federal funding have an obligation to treat every person affected by national emergencies equally.”

The Civil Rights Division and the agencies’ offices for civil rights are responsible for enforcing Title VI by ensuring that their recipients of federal financial assistance do not discriminate on the bases of race, color or national origin.  Additional information about these offices is available through the following links:

Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division at www.justice.gov/crt; Office of Justice Program’s Office of Civil Rights at http://ojp.gov/about/offices/ocr.htm; Office for Access to Justice at www.justice.gov/atj; Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at www.dhs.gov/office-civil-rights-and-civil-liberties; Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Civil Rights at www.hhs.gov/ocr/; Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office at www.portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp; and Department of Transportation’s Departmental Office of Civil Rights at www.transportation.gov/civil-rights.   

Emergency Preparedness Guidance

Tips and Tools for Reaching Limited English Proficient Communities in Emergency Preparedness

Checklist for Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
16-952
Updated August 16, 2016