A federal program that will allow people whose relatives died of COVID-19 to collect upwards of $9,000 for funeral costs is expected to launch later this month, a pair of New York pols announced Thursday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will open up the reimbursement fund to applicants on April 12, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worked with the agency to develop the program.
“Too many families and friends across New York have paid the ultimate price with the tragic loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus,” Schumer said in a statement.
“This historic use of FEMA’s funeral assistance program is much-needed aid to those who need it most.”
The lawmakers first announced the initiative in early February, saying that FEMA would be making available $2 billion in funeral assistance funds — with about $200 million expected to go to New Yorkers.
Once the program launches, applicants will need to call a hotline set up by FEMA — (844) 684-6333 — for instructions, and should be ready to provide a death certificate and documentation of the expenses, according to guidelines provided by Schumer’s office.
Expenses that are eligible for reimbursement include caskets or urns, burial plots, cremations, headstones, transportation, funeral ceremonies and clergy or officiant services.
There will be no means-testing for the aid, meaning anyone who lost a loved one to the coronavirus can apply.
The deceased individual doesn’t need to have been a US citizen. Citizens, legal residents, asylees, refugees and non-citizen nationals are eligible to apply.
The effort to create the reimbursement fund began more than a year ago, according to Ocasio-Cortez.
She credited community leaders in her Queens and Bronx congressional district for flagging “the disparate impact of COVID-19 in working-class areas, compounded with the devastating economic impact of funeral expenses.”
“I’m so relieved that soon our families will finally be able to access relief, and I’m grateful to FEMA for working with Senator Schumer and I to make this program inclusive, generous and easily accessible,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.
The Empire State was the original epicenter of the pandemic in the US, with nearly 50,000 residents killed by the virus.