When President Biden signed a bill on hate crimes in 2021, he said many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, were afraid to leave their homes after being “attacked, scapegoated, harassed” in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden said his Department of Justice would use the new law “to step up” and help solve “a critical problem of hate crimes being underreported.” Two weeks ago, the Biden administration touted its work implementing the law in a strategy report, described as the first of its kind. As renewed attacks have put violence against Asian Americans back in the spotlight, a closer look by USA Today found that key initiatives of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act have yet to be launched. The law sought to bolster hate crime reporting and address the lack of resources available for state and local law enforcement to report attacks as they happen.
The FBI did not report an increase in hate crimes affecting the Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in the months after the bill passed. The incidents recorded in the agency's database were only a small fraction of what has been reported to state authorities and the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. While the bill promised federal funding for state-run hate crime hotlines, those hotlines have not been implemented. When the grants are given out in March, only two states will benefit. a handful of states and a nonprofit organization continue to fill the gap. The bill authorized the Department of Justice to make grants to help local agencies report crimes through federal systems, but the department did not provide information to USA Today on these efforts. The biggest initiative in the 2021 hate crimes bill required DOJ to issue grants to states to set up hate crime reporting hotlines. The department will award $1.125 million grants to two states to run hate crime hotlines starting March 1 and lasting for 36 months. In the meantime, several states started their own hotlines without federal money. Oregon created a hotline at the beginning of 2020 that responds to bias incidents and hate crimes. New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a state hate crime hotline in March 2020. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom in September ordered the creation of a hotline called “CA vs. Hate.” The hotline had a soft launch in November.