April 22 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed an anti-Asian hate crimes bill introduced amid a spate of violence spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed the chamber with a 94-1 vote, with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., voting against.
Sen. Maize Hirono, D-Hawaii, introduced the bill last month along with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y.
"Today's historic, bipartisan vote on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act sends a powerful message of solidarity to the [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community -- that the United States Senate rejects anti-Asian hate. Now, I urge the House to swiftly pass this legislation so the bill can go to President [Joe] Biden to sign into law," Hirono said in a statement.
The legislation seeks to combat a surge in incidents of physical, verbal and online attacks targeting AAPI communities, particularly as many people blame the spread of the novel coronavirus on China, where it was first reported.
The bill also directs state and local law enforcement to establish a method for hate crimes and incidents to be reported online in multiple languages, expand public education campaigns and have the secretary of Health and Human Services issue best-practice guidance to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February, Stop AAPI Hate published a report stating it received more than 2,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate including physical assault, verbal harassment and discrimination between March 19, 2020, and Dec. 31.
A second report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University published in March said anti-Asian hate crime in 16 of the United States' largest cities increased by 149% in 2020 compared to a year earlier despite hate crimes declining overall by 7%.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber delivered a "powerful message" by passing the bill Thursday.
"Racism and violence against Asian Americans has no place in our society," he tweeted.
Darryl Coote contributed to this report.