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How some families could receive financial help to pay for COVID-19 burials

Nikeya Bell is trying to find the $8,500 needed to give her grandmother a proper burial. She soon may be able to get that help through special FEMA funds.

ATLANTA — When Nikeya Bell's grandmother, Louise, passed away Feb. 5 from COVID-19, she knew Louise deserved a proper burial. But thousands of dollars stand in the way from making that happen. 

The initial funeral cost estimate sat at more than $12,000, and with some help from insurance, that went down to $8,500.

Footing that bill has not been an easy task for Louise's four kids, 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandkids, so they set up a GoFundMe page to get help from the community.

"To be honest with you, that's not even the type of money I have available to spend or even on-hand," explained Nikeya. "None of us in my family have that type of money to be able to bury our grandmother."

Credit: Nikeya Bell

Louise, who passed days after her 73rd birthday after being hospitalized Jan. 31, worked as a registered nurse in four Georgia counties throughout the past two decades.

Now, Nikeya wants to give back to the woman who gave so much to her community.

"It would mean the world to us to be able to give our grandmother a decent burial," she explained.

Credit: Nikeya Bell

To help families who are struggling to pay for their loved ones' funeral expenses, New York Rep. Alejandra Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a program that could reimburse families who've had loved ones die from COVID-19 up to $7,000.

FEMA would be operating this $2 billion fund across the country to help families who have not been able to afford proper funerals for their loved ones.

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Right now, the retroactive program includes funerals that took place from Jan. 20, 2020 through December 31st, 2020, but the New York lawmakers say they're seeking to extend the program through the end of the pandemic in the next COVID-19 relief bill.

"It's a great blessing to know that Schumer and AOC are on board with helping those of us in these types of situations where we're unable to meet the bill in order to follow through with their final wishes," added Nikeya.

Credit: Nikeya Bell

The lawmakers say the program will require those who are applying to have documentation of funeral expenses in addition to a death certificate showing the family member died from COVID-19.

RELATED: House approves budget bill, paving way for Biden's $1.9T COVID-19 relief plan

Arrangements for Louise Bell's funeral are planned for Saturday, February 20th and all payment is due to the funeral home by Wednesday, February 17th. If you'd like to donate, click here.