In order for a local government to receive Federal funding, it must be in compliance with Title VI. For those of you unfamiliar with Title VI the short version is that it is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and requires that agencies that receive Federal Funding to not discriminate against people.
If you want to lean more just Google it. There is a lot more to it than my weblog (or several weblog’s) could cover. For our purposes in the TDOT Local Programs world it means that if you, the local government, want to get a Notice to Proceed for your project you need to be in compliance with the requirements set by the TDOT Civil Rights Office.
Your point of contact for all things TDOT Title VI is:
Sylvia Odum (615) 252-1064 or firstname.lastname@example.org
She and her office are the subject matter experts on Title VI and all things TDOT Civil Rights related. I have worked with Sylvia for years and she has been very helpful, and is really easy to work with.
The way I have usually seen it work is that larger communities like Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga have their own stand alone Civil Rights Offices that their whole purpose is to keep these Cities in Title VI compliance. For smaller communities they usually have someone assigned as the Civil Rights/Title VI compliance officer. This may or may not be this person’s primary duty, and they may have limited training and experience with Title VI and it’s requirements. Please understand I have worked with a lot of folks in smaller communities who are excellent in keeping compliance with Title VI, so I don’t want to sound like I am knocking anyone.
Here are a couple of pitfalls and misunderstandings that I have seen when it comes to Title VI:
- Just because you or one of your staff has attended or completed the TDOT Title VI training does not mean your City or County is Title VI certified. You need to contact Sylvia and make sure that your town, city, or county is all current with it’s Title VI responsibilities.
- This is something new that I have learned. Just because you are Title VI compliant and current with one Federal Agency, it does not mean that you are automatically in compliance with a second, or third Federal Agency your community receives funds from. Each agency will want many of the same things to happen, but there are subtle details that can and do exist. TDOT may not require something that the Department of Defense requires on it’s grants.
The key is to find who the “Sylvia Odum” is for each of the agencies you receive Federal funding from. Then do what they tell you to do.
- Just because your community was in compliance with TDOT on Title VI 3 months ago, does not necessarily mean it is in compliance today. Be sure to contact Sylvia ahead of time, especially when you are getting close to a Construction Notice to Proceed to make sure everything is a going to be a go. Title VI compliance is an ongoing effort. That is why larger Cities and Counties have fully staffed Civil Rights Offices with people who are specifically trained and experienced with Civil Rights law compliance.
Having a community that is not in compliance with Title VI is a total show stopper on receiving Federal funds. As a local government you will not be issued a Notice to Proceed until you are in compliance with TDOT Title VI requirements. The Local Programs Office will probably not process your reimbursement requests either until things get fixed.
The good news is that in my experience Title VI has never held up a project. There have been a handful of times when a government was close to getting a Notice to Proceed thinking it was Title VI certified and for whatever reason they were not. Fortunately because of the hard work of Sylvia Odum and the local government things always got sorted out quickly.