CHICAGO — A bill that will assist families who lost children to gun violence has been signed into state law, but leaders behind the legislation said there’s still more work to be done.
The Mychal Moultry Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act allows the state to pay up to $10,000 for funeral and burial expenses for low-income families that lost children 17 and younger to gun violence. The bill received overwhelming support from the Illinois House and Senate and was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. JB Pritzker.
If a family’s income falls below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, they can apply for state assistance to receive the funding.
Leaders behind the bill gathered at St. Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Pl., with Father Michael Pfleger to announce the act in January. The law is named in honor of Mychal Moultry Jr., a 4-year-old boy shot and killed in a Woodlawn home last year while getting his hair braided.
Mychal’s mother, Angela Gregg, said the family paid $13,000 for her son’s funeral. She wanted to bury her child, she said, but the overwhelming price led the family to cremate him.
The Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act reimburses funeral expenses to families of murder victims, but the paperwork and payment process can take months or years.
Gregg said she applied for reimbursement through the state’s compensation act. She was still waiting.
Dave Nayak, founder of Strength to Love, an organization fighting to curb gun violence, said the Mychal Moultry Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act will help alleviate some of the despair families feel after losing a child to gun violence.
Families will now receive funds expeditiously to have a funeral service of their choice.
“We hope that their pain is addressed in some semblance of a way so that they can have an easier grieving process and mourn the loss of their child in a way that is more comfortable for them,” Nayak said. “We want to give that opportunity to families.”
State Sen. Jacqueline Collins was a key leader proponent the bill. She said it was important for local officials to move swiftly.
She will work with local alderpeople, funeral directors and pastors to spread the word about the law so families know assistance is on the way, she said.
“The important thing now is getting the word out,” Collins said. “We have to inform the families that this program is available because, in the midst of all the grief, we don’t want to overburden them with the financial debt that they are going to be confronting.”
The Mychal Moultry Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act will take effect in July of 2023.
Until then, Nayak said his foundation is applying for grant funding through the Office of Violence Protection to create the Strength to Love Funeral and Burial Assistance Program.
The “bridge program” will pay for funeral and burial services for children lost to gun violence across the state until the law takes effect.
“More children will be murdered this year, and we want to be there for families in at-risk communities throughout the state,” Nayak said. “If we can address their pain and help them go forward with respectable funerals and burials for their children killed by gun violence, then we are helping to address this problem in a very small way.”
While the new law is a win, the violence seen in Chicago this week is proof more needs to be done, Nayak said.
“We’re grateful for this wonderful occasion to celebrate, but there’s more to be done,” Nayak said. “We need to keep pressing forward, and as I always say to everybody: head down, forward and onward.”
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