Turn to Tara: Price gouging at some funeral homes turns grief into frustration

The coronavirus pandemic is leaving tens of thousands of New Yorkers in mourning – but now many of them say their wallets are hurting along with their hearts.
Jessica Mayorga is lamenting the loss of her grandmother, Anna Mayorga, who she says raised her as a child. Mayorga's grief turned to outrage after several funeral homes across Westchester and the Bronx tried to tack on COVID-19-related charges.
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“It was a lot more money. The prices went up,” she told News 12.
Similar frustrations have been voiced repeatedly for weeks now from dozens of families who have reached out to the Turn to Tara team. The team took their concerns straight to Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
The county executive told News 12 that those funeral directors that are marking up their prices are “taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable time.”
“I know that most reputable funeral directors in this county want nothing to do with that behavior,” he said.
But for the ones doing otherwise, Latimer warned that price gouging during the pandemic will not be tolerated.
“To price gouge at that point, it's not just illegal, it's morally wrong,” he said. “But we can deal with the legal side of it through the Office of Consumer Protections and certainly going about the New York state attorney general, and again your good work in bringing to light these types of behaviors.”
Latimer says impacted families can reach out directly to his office.
According to state law, while funeral homes are permitted to set their own prices, it’s illegal for them to charge more than what's listed on their general price list – so be sure to request it up front.
It’s also illegal to charge an extra fee for filing a death certificate, handle a casket or any service wasn’t approved of first.
Agencies like the Funeral Consumer Alliance are trying to help get the word out.
For those out of work and unable to afford the costs of a basic burial for a loved one, Turn To Tara found out that assistance is available: