NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — During the pandemic, many have struggled to pay for funerals for loved ones who died of COVID-19.

Now, two New York lawmakers want to get the word out that families will soon be able to apply to be reimbursed, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported Monday.

Last year, refrigerated trucks were brought in after hospitals could not keep up with all of the bodies of those dying from COVID-19. Funeral homes were inundated.

“Ten an hour. People were calling,” said Milton Lane, funeral director of Paul Lane Funeral Home in Jamaica, Queens. “I had a number of families that actually because of financial concerns opted for direct cremation, but the deceased actually owned a grave.”

“Grave opening costs here in the Tri-State Area can range anywhere from $1,200 on up to $2,300,” Lane added.

COVID VACCINE

But there may soon be relief or those families that struggled.

“If you are a family who couldn’t afford or had to just stretch and went without rent or went without food or anything else so you might give your loved one a decent funeral and burial, you can get reimbursed for up to $7,000,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said if you apply, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse for the funeral and burial costs.

“I lost my dad when I was about 18 years old and the funeral expenses haunted and followed my family,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

The lawmakers made the announcement in Corona, Queens, one of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

“When Black, Brown and working class families are getting hit disproportionality hard with cases, it means that they’re also losing more people,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

The money was included in COVID legislation, creating a $2 billion pot of disaster funds — $260 million of it for New Yorkers.

There are several steps you’ll need to take.

  • Have an ID and documentation to show your relation to the deceased.
  • The death certificate must state cause of death as COVID-19.
  • You must have documents outlining the costs.

The program applies to any service from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2020.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Though there’s nowhere to apply at the moment, Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez expect FEMA to have the program up and running within a couple of months, along with a multi-lingual 1-800 number.

Many hope it’s a quick process.

“Get the checks out to these people. Give ’em a break,” Lane said.

The federal government can’t take away their grief, but hopefully it can lessen the financial burden.

Those who are undocumented are eligible to apply. Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez said they’re working on extending the money for 2021.

Alice Gainer