By Chinta Strausberg April 15, 2022
Spencer Leak, Sr., the owner of Leak & Sons Funeral Homes, late Monday night joined with others in applauding the Illinois House and Senate for passing the Mychal Moultry, Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act that provides up to $10,000 to bury children under 17 if the family’s income falls within 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
Introduced by Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), Leak said, “I applaud this legislation that is certainly needed. Dealing with the death of a child who has been murdered is a hardship for them. I will let my colleagues know that we now have the ability to offer families funeral and cemetery costs that would average out to that $10,000.”
When asked if he buries children under 17 who have been murdered, Leak said, “Unfortunately, I do and most of these children are caught in gun crossfires where they are not the intended target. It is a tragic thing that we funeral directors have to sit across the aisle from a mother who has lost a child 7, 8, 9, 10-years-old and in some instances infants as young as 6 to 9-months old.
“I applaud the legislature and the governor for this legislation. I think it is the right legislation at the right time,” said Leak.
The bill was named after four-year-old Mychal “MJ” Moultry, Jr. who was fatally shot while he was getting his hair braided in a Woodlawn apartment near 6500 South Ellis Avenue.
Bullets crashed through the window striking the boy twice in his head, according to police. He was visiting his father over last year’s Labor Day weekend.
Young Moultry was one of 45 children under the age of 17 murdered in 2021. To date, 14 have been murdered in 2021 according to the police department.
At the time of the shooting, the child’s mother, Angela Gregg, appealed to lawmakers to pass a law to protect children from gun violence. Her wish came true last Thursday when both the House and Senate passed SB2986, a bill named after Gregg’s son.
In seeking justice for the death of her only child, Gregg told reporters she is glad that this bill will help other parents faced with funeral bills. She told CBS 2 News that she had to depend on the Crime Victims Compensation Act for funds to bury her son. “We have not been reimbursed for those expenses yet,” said Gregg.
While Gregg wanted to bury her child, because she didn’t have the $13,000 for burial expenses; she had to cremate him.
Gregg told CBS 2 News that the bill “is a way to memorialize my son. He had a small life. He was only here for four years, but now my son will be remembered.”
The bill allows parents or guardians of a child victim under 17 or anyone in the household of a child victim in relationship to the child victim and whose household income is less than 150 percent ($40,000) for a family of four beginning January 1, 2023. Parents or guardians can apply to the Illinois Department of Human Services to begin the payout process.
Collins told the Chicago Crusader, “Dr. Dave Nayah, who heads the Strength to Love Foundation, paid for Mychal’s funeral.
He has been paying for quite a few funerals, and he thought there was something we could be doing as a state to assist families who lost children to gun violence.
“I sponsored this bill because it is important that families who lose children to gun violence should not have to bear the additional grief of a financial burden upon families,” said Collins.
“Many of the families have to resort to starting GoFundMe pages to pay for their children’s funerals, and if they were not successful, they ended up cremating their child.
“I think everyone should have the opportunity to have the burial service they desire for their loved one. They should not have to resort to the lower cost of cremation if they want to memorialize their child in a more acceptable way. It’s additional grief in losing a child to gun violence,” Collins said.
Also in support of the bill is Father Michael Pfleger who told the Chicago Crusader, “Many families not only have to face the devastation of losing a child, but then they have to worry about how they can bury them. We must stop children from being killed, and until we do, we need to at least help lift some of the pressures facing them.”
At the time of Moultry’s murder, Saint Sabina and All Kids Matter Foundation headed by activist Andrew Holmes, offered a $9,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whomever murdered Moultry.
In a statement to the media, Dr. Nayak said, “Losing a young child to gun violence is among the most horrific tragedy a family could experience. Nobody plans to bury their murdered child; it’s among the worst unplanned expenses for anyone. Today, the average cost of a funeral is $9,500 and many families are forced to rely on crowd-sourcing or donations to pay for these costs.” Dr. Nayak said the passage of this bill “will immediately provide direct payments to the funeral and burial service providers so that families can complete the respectable funerals and burials they desire for their murdered children. This legislation is the light for those families in need during the darkest times in their lives.”
According to Senator Collins, the governor has 60 days to sign the bill into law.