Monterey County COVID-19 funeral, burial assistance program proposed

Peninsula Premier Admin

SALINAS — More than 300 Monterey County residents have died from COVID-19 since March 2020, and a new proposal would help their families pay for funeral and burial expenses.

A referral backed by Supervisors Luis Alejo and Chris Lopez to be considered by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday calls for creating a local program to help local “eligible and low-income families” with the expenses.

The proposal seeks to tap funding from a $2 billion FEMA program approved in December aimed at offering financial assistance to “an individual or household to meet disaster-related funeral expenses” incurred through the end of last year.

The referral notes that up to 100% of expenses could be eligible for reimbursement under the FEMA-funded portion of the proposed program.

It also requests county staff look into creating a local program to “partially” reimburse low-income county residents for those expenses incurred since the start of this year, which may not be covered under the FEMA program.

“We need a local program to help local families who lost loved ones to COVID with any funeral and burial expenses for this year,” Alejo said, adding that no income requirements have been set yet and so it’s not known how many families could qualify for assistance. “But I hope that perhaps the program can help with up to 25% of average funeral expenses. It’s not everything, but it would certainly help families who are already grieving get some relief to help to pay for the funeral and burial of their loved ones. It’s the right thing to do in this crisis that has now taken the lives of over 300 Monterey County residents.”

Payments would be made directly to funeral homes, according to the referral, which requests a staff report and presentation to the county board within two weeks of assignment.

Funeral and burial expenses average between $7,200 and $12,000 in California, the referral indicated.

Alejo noted that while funerals have been limited in size by COVID-19 safety measures including social distancing and capacity limits, they have continued during the pandemic.

He added that the program could also help pay to return the deceased person’s remains to Mexico for burial if that was their wish.

As of Friday morning, county health reported a total of 315 deaths of local residents who tested positive for the virus, including two more since the day before, as well as 41,787 confirmed cases and 66 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Alejo said the county board is also set to consider on Tuesday a draft update to agricultural worker protections for the “safe return to work” for farmworkers with the spring agriculture season starting next month and thousands of migrant workers poised to return to the Salinas Valley. The update will be part of the county board’s regular COVID-19 status report.

Also Tuesday, the county board is set to consider an annual report on the implementation of the memorandum of understanding between the county and the city of Salinas to coordinate on government services and facilities, downtown and other mutual initiatives such as the new Salinas homeless shelter dubbed the SHARE Center, as well as direction to staff to update the agreement, which expired last year, and return for adoption by June 30.

The board is also scheduled to consider an appeal by Laguna Seca Office Park residential developer Leonard McIntosh of a September county Planning Commission approval of a two-story, 15-unit apartment building that required him to include four lower-income units to comply with the county’s inclusionary housing requirements. McIntosh and his attorney Tony Lombardo argued the extra affordable units requirement would make the project economically infeasible.

Contributed by local news sources

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