Photo Courtesy of Sen. Schumer’s Office
Democratic leaders, including Sen. Schumer, meet with President Biden and Vice President Harris in the Oval Office.
By Forum Staff
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens and Bronx) formally announced on Monday that the Federal Emergency Management Administration will help pay for the funeral and burial of COVID-hit families that cannot afford it via a $2 billion national pot of disaster funds.
“Families across New York are already paying the ultimate price with the tragic loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “For families, the unspeakable loss of a loved one is being exacerbated by the substantial costs of funerals and burials that many cannot afford right now. This historic use of FEMA’s funeral assistance program helps ensure those grappling with this crisis are not also saddled with the financial burden of exorbitant funeral costs, and that is what Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and I worked to deliver here—and we got it done. The work now centers on making sure eligible families know this is happening and know how to access the funds—that’s why our next job is to get the word out.”
Through the COVID relief deal, financial aid will be provided to those that have lost loved ones to COVID-19 to help cover funeral costs. Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez said the need for this special funeral assistance was beyond urgent as tens of thousands of New Yorkers have tragically passed away due to COVID-19 and many families are struggling to pay for funerals and burials, which on average cost $7,000. The COVID relief legislation provides $2 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund and activates FEMA’s Disaster Funeral Assistance program – New Yorkers will receive approximately $260 million in funeral assistance funds, based on average funeral costs that will help grieving New York families.
The legislation provides this assistance at 100 percent federal cost share. Eligibility for the funds is retroactive through the beginning of the pandemic, Jan. 20, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020; and Schumer says he and Ocasio-Cortez are working to keep the program in place for the rest of the pandemic.
Schumer explained, a family that thinks they are eligible should work with their family members, the city and state, as well as their funeral director to prepare: 1) documentation to verify the caller’s identity and relation to the deceased; 2) a death certificate that lists the deceased’s death as related to COVID-19, following the CDC’s guidelines; 3) documentation of all costs associated with the deceased’s funeral; and 4) coordination with family members and the city and state on who will submit the claim as they are “next of kin.”
Schumer went on to explain that FEMA is setting up a call center, which New Yorkers will be able to access through a 1-800 number, where caseworkers will help individuals who believe they are eligible to register in FEMA’s system. Registered individuals will be provided access to an online portal to submit documents, and there will be a fax and mail option available as well. Schumer and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez continue to push FEMA to make this process simple and empathetic to those who have already lost so much, as well as ensuring the call center supports a wide range of languages to reflect the diversity of states like New York.