Biden launches up to $5 billion program championed by AOC promising $9,000 to families who lost someone from COVID to cover the cost of burials
Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both representing New York, started championing the idea in spring 2020 to help pay for funerals – as their state had to create mobile morgues to accommodate the high rate of death.
The US coronavirus death toll has now reached 556,907.
The program was first passed as part of the last coronavirus relief bill Donald Trump signed while president, but was further expanded in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month.
Families who lost a loved one from COVID-19 can start applying next week through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive monetary assistance related to the costs of the burial and funeral.
A web page and designated call center have been set up to answer questions about the program and help with applications starting Monday.
Biden’s administration is launching a program next week that will send out up to $9,000 to families who lost a loved one due to coroanvirus to help cover burial and funeral costs
A website and hotline were set up so Americans can begin applying for assistance Monday
If every death of the more than 556,000 represented an eligible applicant and they received the full $9,000 assistance, the program could cost the U.S. more than $5 billion
There are no income restrictions, meaning anyone can receive assistance if they have not already received similar benefits. Applicants must, however, be ‘a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national, or qualified alien’ who paid for funeral expenses after January 20, 2020, according to FEMA.
The applicant must show proof through a death certificate showing the death did happen in the U.S. and ‘may have been caused by or was likely the result of COVID-19.’
Since it is still unclear how many people will be eligible to receive benefits, it’s also unknown the scope and ultimate cost of the program, although it will easily span into several billion considering as of Wednesday more than 556,000 Americans have died of coronavirus.
If every single death was claimed and all were eligible for the full $9,000 benefit, the program could reach well past the $5 billion mark.
‘Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate,’ acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said in a statement.
Last spring, Schumer said people deserve to give their loved one’s a ‘decent funeral and burial’ even when suffering financial strain from lost jobs and other pandemic-related hardships.
Ocasio-Cortez said at the time: ‘The absolute least we can do is to help these families bury their loved ones. It is the very core, basic measure of human dignity.’
During the peak of the pandemic last year, funeral aid was held up as lawmakers negotiated aspects of the relief bill making its way through at the time.
When Trump signed the nearly $1 trillion stimulus package just weeks before vacating the Oval Office, it outlined maximum benefits as $7,000 with a cap of $2 billion. Further details were never provided or specified.
The American Rescue Plan changed some of that.
The funeral aid could more than double the previous cap and allocated up to $2,000 more per applicant.
FEMA has had similar programs in the past to reimburse people for burial costs – but not nearly in such a large capacity as now or with such large payments.
One example is in 2017 when they paid for funeral costs of those who died in three hurricanes. The total was $2.6 million for 976 people, averaging $2,664 per applicant.