What to Know
- New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced reimbursement benefits for families of low-income New Yorkers who have died from the virus
- The COVID relief bill passed December 2020 earmarked $2 billion for families, $200 million of which will go to New Yorkers
- The funding will be retroactive back to early 2020 when the pandemic first made New York City the early epicenter of the global pandemic
A FEMA hotline established to help get burial and funeral funds into the hands of New Yorkers unable to afford those expenses to take care of loved ones lost to COVID-19 went online Monday.
Families who lost someone to the virus that decimated lives of New Yorkers since last spring are eligible for up to $9,000. The FEMA hotline is 1-844-684-6333.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez returned to Queens on Monday where they last announced the benefits for low-income families.
"Starting today, people who have lost loved ones in COVID - they can't pay for the funeral and the burial - from January 20 of last year to December 31 of last year, can get reimbursed. And those now who cannot afford a funeral can the money to pay for it," Schumer said.
Families who call the hotline must make sure the death certificate of their loved ones lists COVID-19 as a primary or contributing cause of death, Ocasio-Cortez advised. Some death certificates issued early in the pandemic may not have the most accurate information, but families can contact the issuing institution and have the certificate updated, the lawmaker said.
"It was our community leaders on the ground that sounded this early," Ocasio-Cortez said Monday. "I'm very excited to say that today is the day. the hotline is open and because that hotline is open you can call into FEMA and start the process today."
The funding for New York will come from FEMA disaster funding, similar to money made available following the Hurricane Sandy disaster. Of the agency's $2 billion earmarked for aid, Schumer has said over $200 million will go to New York families.
The New York lawmakers said the benefits is $2,000 more than previously announced -- now up to $9,000 for families.
To effectively reach the families that need the money most, Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez previously said a family that thinks they are eligible for the FEMA funding should prepare the following:
- Documentation to verify relative's identity and relation to the deceased;
- Death certificate that lists the deceased's death as related to COVID-19;
- Documentation of all costs associated with funeral and burial services;
- Coordinate with family members as well as city and state on who will submit the claim as they are "next of kin"
The call center setup by FEMA will assist families to register and submit the necessary documentation to acquire reimbursement funds, they said. The personnel hired will speak a variety of languages to better assist the diversity of New Yorkers.
"The phone number is run by people who are understanding, compassion, and speak multiple languages," Schumer said Monday.
"This pandemic was not hitting all of us equally. It was hitting Black families hard, it was hitting frontline workers hard, it was hitting immigrant families extremely hard, working class families. It was disproportionately hitting along lines of race and lines of class," Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said in February.