- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said FEMA is readying a scheme to reimburse $2 billion in funeral costs.
- "We finally got it done," Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter on Friday.
- The funding effort began last spring, as New York City became the US epicenter for COVID-19 cases.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse up to $2 billion in costs for coronavirus funerals, said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pushed for the funding as part of the federal COVID-19 relief package.
"After our BX+Queens district became the most COVID-hit in the country, I spent much of the last year working on an issue that was devastating our families: funeral costs," Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter late Friday.
She added: "We finally got it done. People will soon be able to get COVID funeral costs reimbursed."
FEMA is now putting the program into place, but details haven't been finalized, she said. Ocasio-Cortez, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Barbara Lee worked to include the funding in the $900 billion stimulus bill signed in December, she said.
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Early in the pandemic, New York became an epicenter for the coronavirus. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised funeral directors to livestream funerals. By late April, about 30 states and territories had requested FEMA assistance for funeral costs, but President Donald Trump limited funding, as ProPublica reported at the time.
"The approval of programs in response to a disaster declaration request is made at the discretion of the President," a FEMA spokesperson told ProPublica at the time.
Earlier that month, Ocasio-Cortez and Schumer wrote a letter to FEMA's administrator, seeking access to Disaster Funeral Assistance.
"As the tragic number of deaths from COVID-19 continues to rise in New York, individuals who are facing incredible loss are also being saddled with an additional financial burden," the pair wrote in their letter.
In May, Ocasio-Cortez introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Lee, called the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Act. That bill called for $10,000 payments to families to cover funeral costs, according to Lee's office.
"For weeks, the Trump Administration refused to act to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, too many families are having their loved ones taken from them suddenly, many times unable to even say a proper goodbye," Lee said in a statement at the time.
Their bill stalled in committee hearings after its introduction. Months later, the funding effort became part of the federal COVID relief package signed by Trump in December, according to Ocasio-Cortez.
Now, FEMA is working to finalize the plans, she said. The agency didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
"As soon as the FEMA distribution details are finalized, we'll share with you all how to get this needed relief. Our aim is for all COVID losses to be eligible," Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday.
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