SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Financial relief could soon be headed to local families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
In late September, a week after Cassie Martinez, 29, became sick, she was admitted to the ER with COVID-related myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
That same day, she would suffer two heart attacks, before passing away. She left behind a devastated family, including her brother, David, and her boyfriend of nearly eight years, Ricardo Ferreyra, who had been planning a proposal.
"I'm heartbroken. I'm in a million pieces right now," said Ferreyra in September.
Along with a family's grief, her death also took a financial toll in terms of the cost of the funeral and burial expenses.
"Since she was very loved, we wanted something special for her. We wanted somewhere she would be remembered," said Ferreyra.
The total bill for the funeral and burial is about $18,000. While the Martinez family got some help from other loved ones, friends, and a GoFundMe campaign, they are hurting financially.
"Their financial situations are very stretched out right now," said Ferreyra.
Cassie's brother was laid off during the pandemic. Her mother, Elvira, was hospitalized with COVID-19 and is unable to work.
"She's still healing, recovering," said Ferreyra.
The family may soon be getting some financial relief. On Monday, FEMA confirmed they will be offering reimbursements for funeral expenses, up to $7,000, to low-income families of loved ones who passed away from COVID-19. The money comes from the December COVID relief bill.
The exact criteria have yet to be announced, but it will cover expenses incurred during 2020. Ferreyra says the Martinez family will be applying.
"Receiving that help would definitely cause them to de-stress a little, be a little more comfortable … they're not going to have struggle wondering where their next check or money is going to come from," said Ferreyra.
FEMA has begun hiring support staff to help process applications but hasn't announced when the application process will begin.