On Monday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered a glimmer of relief to families grieving the loss of a loved one during the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to the Democratic lawmakers, low-income families who lost a loved one to the coronavirus may be eligible to have funeral and burial costs reimbursed. This funding, which is retroactive back to March 2020, comes after the legislators lobbied the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and totals over $2 million for New Yorkers.
According to Schumer, families may be eligible for up to $7,000 in reimbursements. According to the legislators, FEMA is establishing a hotline to answer relevant questions, but lawmakers advised families to start getting paperwork (including, for example, identification, death certificates, and receipts) together now. The lawmakers also took care to address communities hit particularly hard by the virus: communities of color.
“This pandemic was not hitting all of us equally,” Ocasio-Cortez stated, as reported by local outlet NBC New York. “It was hitting Black families hard, it was hitting frontline workers hard, it was hitting immigrant families extremely hard, working-class families. It was disproportionately hitting along lines of race and lines of class.” According to Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter, the funding includes undocumented folks.
“If you are a family who couldn’t afford or had to just stretch and went without rent or went without food or anything else so you might give your loved one a decent funeral and burial,” Schumer said, “you can get reimbursed for up to $7,000.” Given what we know about unemployment (and underemployment), as well as how the novel coronavirus has ravaged communities of color and low-income folks, this reimbursement is no small thing.
As a spokesperson for Schumer said in a statement, as reported by the New York Daily News, “Families across New York, particularly those in communities of color … have already paid the ultimate price.” These funds offer a bit of relief from at least the financial pain and stress associated with burying a loved one.
Here’s a clip of Ocasio-Cortez announcing the funding in Queens on Monday.
And a clip of Schumer speaking at the same press conference.
And here is the full press conference.