April 15, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are calling on the federal government to help cover the funeral costs for low-income families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19.
The legislators said that the government needs to help these families and urged FEMA to release funds immediately as part of the “Disaster Funeral Assistance” program.
Ocasio-Cortez’ district covers the Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights neighborhoods– the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak. Many residents in the area have limited means and are new immigrants. Around 20 percent of Corona residents – the city’s hardest-hit neighborhood – live below the poverty level.
The pair want FEMA to help pay for expenses including casket costs, mortuary services, death certificates, and cremation or interment.
“Families across New York, and right here in Queens, are already paying the ultimate price with the tragic loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus,” they said at a press briefing in Corona yesterday.
“That is why FEMA must do the right thing during this crisis, exactly what they did after Hurricane Sandy, and deliver special funds to New York families faced with mounting funeral and burial costs they simply cannot afford,” they said.
The legislators said that an existing FEMA program – the Individuals and Households Program – is already available to help with relief but the federal agency needs to approve special funeral assistance.
The appeal comes a week after Council Member Francisco Moya called for the creation of an emergency relief fund last week to cover the cost of death arrangements for the families of COVID-19 victims of limited means.