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NY could create scholarship fund for kids who lost parent to COVID

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

New York lawmakers are facing calls to create a scholarship fund for children who have lost a parent, caregiver, or sibling to COVID-19. The proposed fund would help provide financial assistance to those children looking to pursue higher education.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara introduced the legislation, which has been backed by advocacy group COVID Survivors for Change. They have rallied for lawmakers to push for the measure and ensure that those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic are not left behind.

New York City was hit hard by the pandemic, becoming the global epicenter of COVID-19 infections and deaths three years ago. More than 78,000 New Yorkers have died from the virus, leaving at least 15,000 children in the state without one parent, caregiver, or sibling.

Veronica Fletcher, a resident of Brooklyn, lost her husband and father of her three children, Joseph Trevor Fletcher, to COVID-19 in 2020. She shared her experience at the state Capitol, recalling how she had to tell her children that their father had passed away while they were all afraid to touch each other out of fear of spreading the virus.

The legislation is expected to come out next week, with one-house budget proposals currently being negotiated. However, it remains unclear how much the scholarship program would cost, and whether it will be included in the budget.

Lawmakers are said to support the scholarship program and other forms of support for children who have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. However, the legislation was introduced late in the budget cycle, and most members of the Legislature are unaware of the proposal.

Expanding financial assistance for New Yorkers to pursue higher education is expected to apply to a broader group in the 2023-24 spending plan. Black and Latino children have been disproportionately affected, with a National Institute of Health study showing that they are 2.5 times more likely to have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 than white children.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget does not explicitly earmark investments to support people impacted by long COVID-19 conditions or virus-related deaths of a close family member. However, the state Health Department has an internal working group dedicated to long COVID-19 education for health providers and data tracking as part of its pandemic response.

Hochul and the Department of Health hosted a consortium of experts to discuss long COVID-19 last month, while the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board has a series of webinars providing information on workers’ rights when it comes to filing a workers’ compensation claim and the cash and/or medical benefits they may be eligible to receive. Long COVID-19 can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.