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Cigna, New York Life create fund for grieving families

The Brave Heart Fund is starting with seed funds of $25 million with the goal to raise at least $100 million.

The Cigna Foundation and the New York Life Foundation have started the Brave of Heart Fund to support families who have lost a loved one working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Families may receive up to $75,000. They may initially apply for $15,000 to cover immediate expenses and then seek up to $60,000 in additional aid.

The funds can be used for medical care, counseling, housing, food, transportation, education and other needs. Families of doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies, cafeteria workers, custodians, volunteers, and others working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to apply.

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The fund launched this week. Applications will be available starting in May.

The two founding organizations seeded the fund with $25 million and New York Life Foundation intends to match the first $25 million of additional individual donations received. The goal is to raise more than $100 million.

The fund will be administered by the nonprofit E4E Relief, which the Cigna Foundation called a leading provider of charitable employee relief funds.

WHY IT MATTERS

As of April 14, 9,200 healthcare workers  in the United States had tested positive for COVID-19, though officials believe the number is likely much higher, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said 27 workers nationwide have died, though challenges exist in collecting data because some are dying at home, the Guardian reported. In some cases, those tasked with tallying and reporting case numbers are also helping care for patients in the overwhelmed healthcare system, according to the report.

Healthcare workers are at high risk for COVID-19 because of their exposure to infected patients. Staff in hospitals across the country have reported being out of critical protective personal equipment, which increases their risk of exposure.

THE LARGER TREND

The new fund is the latest in a series of steps CIgna has taken to help those at risk in the pandemic. The insurer has waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, screening and treatment and has also committed to waiving prior authorization.

FOR THE RECORD

"As we've seen in the past, trying times bring out the best in us, as individuals and communities. Our nation's healthcare workers and volunteers are embodying this every day, as they answer the call of duty with bravery and selflessness," said Cigna CEO and President David M. Cordani. "Through the Brave of Heart Fund, we will bring greater peace of mind to these families, by helping to relieve the emotional and financial burdens they will face in the aftermath of this health crisis."

"The Brave of Heart Fund is our way to honor these heroes by doing what New York Life and Cigna do best, supporting these individuals and their families with financial and emotional support and being there when we are needed most," said New York Life Chairman and CEO Ted Mathas.

Max Sullivan is a freelance writer and reporter who, in addition to writing about healthcare, has covered business stories, municipal government, education and crime. Twitter: @maxsullivanlive maxesullivan@gmail.com