NY families to benefit from COVID-19 funeral, burial relief fund

Coronavirus
funeral home coronavirus

Omar Rodriguez, left, works with Joe Neufeld, the owner of the Gerard Neufeld Funeral Home, to move a newly delivered casket on Friday, March 27, 2020.

QUEENS, N.Y. — Some New York families who lost a loved one to COVID-19 could soon receive financial assistance to cover or recoup funeral costs.

Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced on Monday, Feb. 8 the Federal Emergency Management Administration agreed to help pay for the funerals and burials of COVID-19 victims through the Disaster Funeral Assistance program.

FEMA will begin accepting applications Monday, April 12.

The COVID-19 relief bill passed in December 2020 earmarked $2 billion for funeral and burial assistance. About $260 million of those funds will go to New Yorkers, especially to families living in neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic — many of which are communities of color and low-income.

Schumer said he hopes the assistance will help alleviate some of the pain of being unable to give a loved one a proper funeral and burial, which on average cost $7,000.

“Families across New York are already paying the ultimate price with the tragic loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus. 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,” Schumer said. “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.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said the program will allow New Yorkers to give their loved one a proper burial without worrying about going into debt.

“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,” she 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.”

Eligibility for the funds will be retroactive, from January 20, 2020, to December 31, 2020. Schumer said he and Ocasio-Cortez are working to keep the program open for the duration of the pandemic.

As of February, when this article was first published, more than 36,300 New Yorkers had died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. By April, more than 40,600 News Yorkers had died.

Families will have to apply to obtain the funding when it’s available, but the lawmakers said those who are interested can prepare for the application process now.

FEMA has launched the following call center lines: 844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Central.

More information: FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance

New Yorkers who think they may be eligible for financial assistance should work with family members, city and state officials, and their funeral director to gather the following information:

  • Documentation to verify the caller’s identity and relation to the deceased.
  • A death certificate that lists the deceased’s death as related to COVID-19, in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines.
  • Documentation of all costs associated with the deceased’s funeral.
  • Coordination with family members and the city and state on who will submit the claim as “next of kin.”

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