Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came to Corona Plaza Monday to formally announce funeral benefits for low-income New Yorkers whose family members have died from COVID-19.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) 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, including $260 million specifically for New Yorkers.
“Families across New York are already paying the ultimate price with the tragic loss of their loved ones to coronavirus,” Schumer said. “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.”
The two explained that families across New York, particularly those in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods like Corona, which was the epicenter of the COVID-19 emergency last spring, would be have already paid the ultimate price amid the pandemic and the FEMA funds will help alleviate some of the pain in being unable to afford or give a proper burial and funeral to a loved one.
“Millions of people across the country and thousands of New Yorkers have lost loved ones due to the pandemic and adding significantly to the emotional and financial burdens they were already dealing with,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “In the complete lack of adequate federal support, the least we could push for was for financial assistance to families burying their loved ones during this pandemic. After fighting for relief all year, New Yorkers can now give their loved ones the proper burial without going into debt.”
Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez explained their offices stand at the ready to help families navigate the process and secure the new benefit. Eligibility for the funds is retroactive through the beginning of the pandemic, Jan. 20, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, and Schumer said they are working to keep the program in place for the rest of the pandemic. Schumer also explained that if a family thinks they are eligible, they should prepare documentation to verify the caller’s identity, their relation to the deceased and a death certificate that relates the death to COVID-19.
Schumer added that FEMA is standing 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 FEMAs 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 Ocasio-Cortez were joined at Corona Plaza by the Hispanic Federation Voces Latina, and Elmcor Senior center as they pushed to get the word out on the FEMA funds.