Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday to approve special funeral assistance to help New Yorkers bury family members who have succumbed to coronavirus.
Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez, both New York Democrats, made their demands in brief speeches from Corona, Queens, in New York City, one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the country.
“So many people with this crisis who don’t have money don’t have the ability to give a proper funeral and burial to their loved ones who have passed away from this evil illness,” Schumer said. “That is outrageous.”
“It’s bad enough people are losing their jobs, and don’t have food to eat, are separated from their families and loved ones,” added Schumer. “But to not be able to give a decent funeral and burial to someone who is near and dear to you is outrageous.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, said that an average funeral in New York can cost over $11,000. She said coronavirus is “decimating an already vulnerable community.”
“The least we can do is help families bury their loved ones in the most impacted communities in America,” she added. “It is the very least we can do. It is the very core, basic measure of human dignity. And in the richest country in the world, we should be able to allow people to bury their loved ones in dignity.”
Schumer said he hopes that FEMA will agree to their request but if not, they would work to include the proposal in Congress’ fourth bill responding to the pandemic. He noted FEMA has paid burial costs before, including after Hurricane Sandy.
While FEMA has the ability to provide funeral assistance to survivors of major disasters, that authority hasn’t been approved for any of the COVID-19 FEMA individual assistance declarations.
New York state has requested individual assistance following the major disaster declaration signed by President Donald Trump.
“Individual Assistance is under review for the state of New York,” a FEMA spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday morning.
CNN has reached out to FEMA for further comment.
New York has been especially hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and the city’s and state’s death toll have overwhelmed funeral homes in the area. At least 10,834 people in New York have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began, as of Tuesday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily press briefing.