TULSA, Okla. — In the days following a loved one's death, a family can find themselves overwhelmed as they deal with their grief, along with the financial arrangements that must be handled.
"My son was about to finish his welding degree, and he was looking forward to a bright future, and now, it's ended," says Raquel Valladolid.
Her son Joseph Sierra died from COVID-19 last August a few days before his 30th birthday.
"We were all hopeful he was going to pull through and so was his doctor and then he made a turn for the worse," Valladolid says. "He needed to be put on oxygen and he needed to be put in ICU and he was intubated. After that he didn't make it. I honestly haven't been able to wrap my head around getting things done as a really want, it's just that it's difficult."
Paying for the $8,000 funeral only added to the emotional pain, she says as she struggled day to day, just to make ends meet. Thousands of dollars of other bills went unpaid. She believed the federal government could help, but she didn't know where to begin.
"It's very confusing, and hard to cope and deal with."
So when she asked the 2 News Problem Solvers for help, we showed her family how to apply for assistance from FEMA, which pays up to $9,000 for a COVID-related funeral. However, she says she for several weeks as all FEMA would tell her was it could be another 90 days for her request to be processed.
FEMA wouldn't talk details with 2 News because of privacy reasons, but three days later, Valladolid received more than $7,000, just before the family's first Christmas, without her son.
"Out of respect for my son, it was a no-gift-giving holiday, because we weren't in the gift-giving spirit," she says.
"My son is one of the lucky ones who didn't have to pass away from COVID alone, you know so many people have suffered from COVID alone, in the hospital, and they've ended their lives alone in the hospital."
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