Connecting state and local government leaders
Residents in Maricopa County, Arizona, can apply for up to $1,200 toward funeral expenses if they've lost a loved one and also suffered financial losses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Residents in Arizona’s largest county can be reimbursed for funeral expenses if they’ve lost a loved one and suffered financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic, under a new program approved by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
The funeral assistance program, a partnership between the county and the Valley of the Sun United Way, provides grants of up to $1,200 to help pay for burial or cremation costs at participating licensed funeral homes. The money can be used for “logistics and paperwork, transportation, licenses and fees and death certificates,” among other expenses, according to the program’s website. The cause of death does not have to be Covid-19.
Applicants must provide proof that either they or the deceased are a county resident, along with proof of financial hardship as a result of the pandemic (for example, pay stubs that indicate a change in income or reduced working hours). If approved, "the family or personal representative for the deceased will be responsible for any costs above and beyond the $1,200," according to the program's website. The average cost of a funeral in Arizona is around $7,500.
The program is intended to acknowledge the struggles that residents have dealt with during the pandemic, particularly people who have not been able to spend time with loved ones before they died, the county said in a press release.
“For many, the isolation, loss of employment and impact to everyday activities has been overwhelming,” the county said on its website. “For families who have had to face the death of a family member during this pandemic, the impact is even greater. Many were not able to be with their loved one in their last moments and others are struggling to pay for burial expenses due to a loss of income from the pandemic.”
The board of supervisors approved the proposal unanimously at its Aug. 10 meeting and designated $3 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for the initiative. The United Way began accepting paper applications in September and launched an online application portal this week.
“Many Valley families face difficult choices due to the health and economic pressures created by the pandemic. Saying goodbye to a loved one with dignity should not add to this financial and emotional stress,” Carla Vargas Jasa, head of Valley of the Sun United Way, said in a statement. “That’s why United Way is incredibly proud to partner with Maricopa County to provide accessible and respectful funeral assistance to local families during their most vulnerable time.”
Since January 22, Maricopa County has reported 148,399 cases of Covid-19, and 3,497 deaths. Daily case counts have remained relatively steady in the county since August.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.