Nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed an anti-Asian backlash and almost seven months since federal legislation was passed to address it, little has been done. At a May ceremony for the signing of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, President Joe Biden called attention to the lack of reliable data on hate crimes, saying it has long contributed to an incomplete understanding of the scope of the issue — and the tools needed to address it.
The law, Biden noted, directs the U.S. Department of Justice to fund initiatives aimed at encouraging better reporting of hate crimes with special grants to local law enforcement agencies and community groups. “With this new law, the Department of Justice and our entire administration is going to step up,” Biden said. “Right now, [there] is a critical problem of hate crimes being underreported.” More than six months later, however, the Justice Department has yet to “step up” to award the grants.
The delay stems in large part from the Justice Department’s decision to go back and ask Congress for additional funds, instead of choosing a quicker option of tapping into its discretionary funds, to finance the grants.