Schumer, AOC Seek Federal Funds for NYers Funeral Costs: Deaths Part of ‘Systemic Racism’ in U.S.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks as Democratic Congresswoman from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wearing a face mask to protect herself from the coronavirus, listens during a press conference in the Corona neighbourhood of Queens on April 14, 2020 in New York City. - Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and …
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called on Congress Tuesday to appropriate federal funds to help pay for the funerals of New Yorkers who died from the coronavirus.

The Democrats wrote a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor asking him to approve activation of the Individuals and Households Program (IHP), which provides access to the Disaster Funeral Assistance Program.

The letter included the newly updated number of deaths in the state, recalculated to add deaths “presumed” to be coronavirus:

Our state represents the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak here in the United States, in the number of cases and number of deaths. As of April 13, New York State Department of Health reported over 195,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York, with over 106,000 in New York City alone. Tragically, at least 10,056 people have perished in our home state because of this outbreak. These estimates are unfortunately projected to be undercounts of what the true impact COVID-19 has had on our state.

“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,” Ocasio-Cortez and Schumer wrote.

The Hill reported on the letter and Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks about racism in a tweet posted by the Washington media outlet: 

“We know that these mortality rates are doubling and that they’re higher due to the underlying effects and underlying systemic inequalities and systemic racism that we have,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

A spokesperson for FEMA told The Hill “individual assistance is under review for New York.”

The spokesperson said IHP Funeral Assistance is not currently approved under any COVID-19 individual assistance declarations.

If the money is released, it could be used to pay for caskets, mortuary services, death certificates and cremation or interment.

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