Coronavirus NYC: Families can't afford burials for loved ones who have died from COVID-19

CORONA, Queens (WABC) -- Burying loved ones is a sad reality that many families are having to deal with right now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been backups at funeral homes and morgues due to the high amount of deaths and lack of space, but also because of something else. Some families can't afford to bury their loved ones.

"I don't feel good, I feel very sad," said an immigrant mother who lives in Corona, Queens.

For her, the pandemic has been a nightmare. Both of her parents, under the age of 60, were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Both died weeks apart at the same hospital not knowing the other had passed.

"We don't have family in this country, it's very difficult," said the daughter, who didn't want to be identified.

It was also difficult to give her parents the proper burial they wanted. She couldn't afford it. She saw bodies getting buried at Hart Island, but she didn't want that for her loved ones.

"I needed her body, I don't want to throw her away like garbage," the daughter said.

The remains of her parents weren't released to the funeral home for almost a month until she could come up with the funds.

"I had money for her but when my dad happened, many people helped me, even the school and my friends," the daughter said.

She's not alone. Queens has been at the epicenter of the crisis with a high number of deaths and high poverty levels.

"The fact that you can't bury your loved one with dignity is horrifying," New York City Council Member, Francisco Moya said.

The city had a fund set up to help bury the dead. They were reimbursing families up to $900 a person, but it can cost a lot more than that, and only legal residents can receive the money.

Over the last week, the city has almost doubled the amount of reimbursement to $1,700, and they're allowing the funds to be given to anyone in need for burials and cremations.

Families can apply for burial assistance here: www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/burial-assistance.page

"It took some time because there's some public and private partnerships that needed to be made in order to do this, because we are seeing that high number of folks unable to pay for funerals," Moya said.

The help came too late for the daughter who had to bury both of her parents. Even with the help of donations, she had to go against her parents' wishes by cremating them instead. It cost half the price.

"My mother always go to the church, she'd always say when she died or something like that she don't want cremation," she said. "But in this situation I cannot make any other decision."

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