Michigan’s 2024 budget may allocate $5.7 million for discrimination investigators

Michigan Department of Civil Rights spokeswoman Vicki Levengood said there are currently 1,423 backlogged complaints — those that have been on file for 12 months or more — in the system. 

The state of Michigan’s budget for 2024 may allocate $5.7 million for discrimination investigators within its Department of Civil Rights.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the recommendation in her proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, calling for millions from the general fund to go toward the establishment of three new enforcement teams within the department, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“For too long, the Department of Civil Rights has been a department without any rights,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP’s Detroit branch. 

michigan department of civil rights x gretchen whitmer
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers remarks on health care in Southfield in October 2020. The governor has proposed a 2024 budget that would allocate $5.7 million for discrimination investigators in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, part of an overall increase in funding for the department. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The department is responsible for investigating allegations of racism and other forms of discrimination and ensuring equal protection of civil rights.

According to department spokeswoman Vicki Levengood, there are currently 1,423 backlogged complaints — those that have been on file for 12 months or more — in the system. 

Anthony called Whitmer’s recommendation “great news,” adding that it is “a key time for the department to assert itself and get back into the game of civil rights,” given the rise in hate groups and white supremacist activity.

Per Whitmer’s proposal, the Department of Civil Rights would also receive a 35% increase in staffing.

Four full-time employees would be among the additional staff Whitmer suggests hiring to improve the training and compliance efforts for individuals with disabilities, lower the number of complaints in that area, and inform people about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Neither former Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm nor her Republican successor, Rick Snyder, provided much growth in the agency’s budget or workforce during the protracted recession.

At the end of Granholm’s second term, in 2010, the department had $11.7 million in general fund support and 125 full-time employees, compared with $14.98 million from the general fund and 115 employees this year, the Free Press reported.

Whitmer wants to increase general fund assistance for ongoing projects to $23.7 million and hire 40 more people at a budget of $29.5 million. That would increase total funding 36% over the entire allocation for this year.

She would allocate $1 million for a system that would completely automate intake and case management and do away with time-consuming exchanges by mail, phone, and email.

The department’s 2024 budget proposal also earmarks $161,000 for a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit that would focus on equity, health, and well-being for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds in the state, emphasizing racial health disparities, particularly maternal and infant health, according to the Free Press.

Whitmer’s proposal, presented amid a record budget surplus made up mostly of one-time funds, must be approved by the Legislature, where Democrats have a narrow majority in each chamber.

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