MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Since the start of the pandemic, more than 320 people have died from COVID-19 related causes in Monterey County. FEMA is rolling out a program that provides financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses in 2020, but not 2021. A Monterey County proposal could help fill that need for families who can’t afford a burial.
“When you lose someone you love it’s painful. When everyday is something that’s already exhausting, I can’t even imagine the level of just suffering that’s happening,” Alisal Family Resource Center Director Carissa Purnell.
As if losing a family member to COVID-19 isn’t difficult enough, some local families are struggling to pay for a proper burial and the expenses are adding up.
“$8,000 and I think for a lot of us, we didn’t realize the cost was that heavy," Purnell said. "For our families who are struggling to pay a $1,500 rent, you think they have $8,000 in cash lying around?”
Purnell got to thinking: what can be done to help these families, after seeing a growing need.
“Following Thanksgiving and Christmas, there was just this huge uptick in parents testing positive, parents testing positive and then we got that first call, a parent had passed away, and then, I felt like after that, there was just a wave and in a week, we had 6 parents pass away,” Purnell said.
After having little luck with assistance organizations, she reached out to Monterey County supervisors, including Luis Alejo.
He told KION a proposal is in the works that could help pay for funeral and burial expenses for Monterey County families who lost a loved one to COVID-19.
The details are still being worked out, but he said the county could use a portion of cannabis money or get federal funding to help pay for the program. The money could then go to a funeral home or service provider.
“There should be no reason why we can’t have a program that provides funding that gets paid directly to the funeral homes that make all these types of arrangements so we know it’s going to that particular type of service, but the question is: what’s the right amount? And I think at least we should be looking at trying to help families pay 25 percent of that cost which could be an average of up to $2,500,” Supervisor Alejo said.
Alejo said families could also have the option to get a loved one to Mexico if they want to be buried there.
The proposal is still in the initial stages, but Alejo said more options for what this program might look like should come back to the board of supervisors sometime later this month.