Ashley Elijah lost her father Scott Elijah, an MTA track worker for almost 20 years and a pastor at a Yonkers church, to COVID-19 in March.
“It was tough work, but I think he really appreciated all that he could provide for me and my brothers with it," she said.
He was 57 years old. He left behind three children and a granddaughter.
Now, Elijah is submitting paperwork to get a $500,000 benefit from the MTA for families of transit workers who died of COVID-19.
“I’d rather have my dad, but my brothers are very young so this could help us, just to move forward to live the best lives that we can, without my dad being here," Ashley Elijah said.
Thousands of MTA workers contracted coronavirus and 131 have died.
Nearly four months since the MTA and its unions agreed to the COVID benefit in April, the payments are just starting to reach families.
Four families got payments last week and another 10 are approved and are going out this week.
“It’s just such a compassionate thing to do, especially because so many people are losing loved ones," Ashley Elijah said.
It can be time consuming for relatives to get the necessary paperwork, particularly if the death certificate does not list COVID-19.
"My father's death certificate states that he died from natural causes. And he did not," Mejia said.
Tylik Mejia, whose father Julio maintained trains and buses, is trying to get hospital and funeral records showing he died from COVID-19, but has only delays and unanswered questions to show for his efforts.
Mejia described that as "very tedious, very frustrating."
"It's hard enough that I got to deal with the fact that my father was taken from me," he said.
The Transit Workers Union is helping relatives of MTA employees apply for the COVID benefit. The union chief recognized it can be a lengthy process.
"The process is a little slow, but it's a lot of money. we want to make sure it gets to the right places."
The MTA has set up a liaison program for families of transit workers who have died from the pandemic.
“We’re a one-stop shop where they can come and reach out to us and if we can help them through the process, we do our best," said Monica Murray, the chief administrative officer at NYC Transit and head of the liaison program.
So far, the MTA has received 50 applications for the benefit.
"The idea is to get this benefit out to the families and not make it a big roadblock or stumbling block because there wasn’t a test at the time," Murray said.
Mejia said he'll use the money to support his 7-month-old daughter following his father's lead.
"He set the example, he set the tone, he set the bar," Mejia said.