Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed up in New York Monday to introduce $2 billion in special FEMA funds for families who have not been able to afford proper funerals for their loved ones who passed away as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Democrats announced that families can get reimbursed up to $7,000 for funeral expenses, with $260 million of those funds to be directly allocated to New Yorkers. Eligibility for the funds will be retroactive through the beginning of the pandemic, January 20, 2020, to December 31, 2020, and Schumer says he and Ocasio-Cortez are working to keep the program in place for the rest of the pandemic.
This funding is strictly targeted to families who have lost a loved one as the result of Covid-19. Those applying for the funding will need to provide various forms of documentation such as the receipts and invoices that need reimbursement from funeral costs and the death certificate.
“Many of these families because of Covid don’t have money for a proper funeral and a proper burial. And that is just awful and inhumane” Schumer said when describing why the funding is necessary.
Ocasio-Cortez made the issue personal, saying, “I lost my dad when I was about 18 years old. And the funeral expenses haunted and followed my family, along with many other families in a similar position, for years.”
Later asked if these funds would apply to undocumented families, Ocasio-Cortez said yes and explained why those communities should not be afraid to apply for these funds.
“I think it’s completely understandable why they’re that fear there especially over the last four years of targeting of our immigrant families. But I think right now our families, especially under a Biden administration, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House that is prioritizing immigrant rights, including those who are undocumented, to not have fear, and to not allow that fear to further marginalize our community” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Schumer said Ocasio-Cortez brought this issue to his attention last April. These disaster relief funds are similar to the program FEMA created for families after Hurricane Sandy.
This story has been updated to include additional details.