House GOP wants to end funeral assistance for COVID-19 victims

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Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) introduced a bill that appeared to take aim at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over a debunked video.

House Republicans are trying to cut a provision in the American Rescue Plan that provides families of COVID-19 victims with up to $9,000 for funeral costs.

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert introduced a bill on Thursday "to prohibit the use of Federal funds for funeral expenses related to COVID–19." Boebert named the proposal the Stop Appropriations for Obsequy Costs Act, or the "Stop AOC Act," an apparent reference to Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

In recent months, conservatives have circulated a deceptively edited video that appears to show Ocasio-Cortez, who championed the funeral assistance funds, encouraging people to alter death certificates improperly to claim those benefits. That video has since been debunked, with fact-checkers noting her suggestion was taken out of context: Unedited footage in fact shows the New York congresswoman encouraging people to reach out to the hospitals that issued the certificates if their loved one's death from COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic had not been correctly attributed to the disease.

Boebert's bill has already attracted six GOP co-sponsors: Reps. Andrew Clyde (GA), Louie Gohmert (TX), Jody Hice (GA), Brian Mast (FL), Mary Miller (IL), and Ralph Norman (SC).

Her office did not respond to an inquiry about why she wants to discontinue this particular benefit, leaving victims' families to pay for those expenses on their own.

Boebert, along with every House and Senate Republican, voted against the COVID-19 rescue plan that included the funds, with the Colorado congresswoman criticizing the $1.9 trillion package as a "radical socialist agenda."

The FEMA funds — up to $9,000 per funeral — are currently available to the families of anyone who died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. To date, FEMA says it has provided more than $1 billion to over 176,000 people for funeral costs.

Still, not everyone has taken advantage of the benefits.

Ed Michael Reggie, an industry expert and the founder and CEO of Funeralocity, a cost-comparing website, told an Oklahoma radio station in September that only about 40% of qualifying families have applied for the benefits thus far.

"It must be that people don't know and also that people fear that's going to be a mountain of red tape and busy work, I'm guessing," Reggie told KFOR-TV in October.

"It's amazing to me," he added. "There are no income requirements. You make a phone call to an 844 number and a FEMA representative walks you through about a 20-minute phone call."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.