April 13, 2021 By Christina Santucci
New Yorkers who lost a loved one to COVID-19 can now apply for up to $9,000 in federal funds to help pay for funeral and burial costs.
The FEMA hotline for applications launched Monday, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Chuck Schumer visited Corona to highlight the program’s kickoff.
The pair have championed the program as a way to help low-income residents, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“This effort began over a year ago when community leaders in NY-14 flagged the disparate impact of COVID-19 in working-class areas, compounded with the devastating economic impact of funeral expenses,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “I’m so relieved that soon our families will finally be able to access relief.”
The Congresswoman posted on social media Monday evening that the hotline had already received more than one million calls – in the first day of operation.
The $2 billion in funding for the Funeral Assistance program comes from federal pandemic relief bills.
Financial assistance is designated for COVID-19 related funeral expenses – dated after January 20, 2020. Those who paid for multiple burials can apply for up to $35,500 in reimbursement.
Applicants must submit a death certificate that indicates the cause of death was likely related to COVID-19 – as well as documents, such as receipts or contracts with a funeral home, showing the costs already paid.
“Now that the details are finalized and the hotline LIVE, we are working to get the word out, to make sure eligible families know to submit an application, how to prepare, and that help is available through a dedicated 800 number,” Schumer said in a statement.
Officials said that if multiple family members contributed to funeral costs, they should file a joint application – with one person registered as the applicant and others listed as co-applicants.
The deceased individual’s documentation status is not considered during the proces, but those applying for reimbursement must be U.S. citizens, legal residents, asylees, refugees or non-citizen nationals.
FEMA noted on its website that there had been some technical issues due to the high call volume on the Funeral Assistance line.
“Please try again later if you get a busy signal or your call doesn’t connect. There is no deadline to apply,” the website stated Tuesday morning.
Those interested in applying should call 844-684-6333, and the call center will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. For more information, visit FEMA’s website.
Ocasio-Cortez said constituents in her Queens and Bronx district can email or call her office at 718-662-5970 during regular business hours.