Funds reimburse COVID-related funerals
The federal government has already provided more than $2 billion to help cover funeral costs for more than 300,000 families of people who died from COVID-19, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced in March as it launched a new campaign to raise awareness about additional aid available to eligible families.
The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program provides up to $9,000 per funeral and covers COVID-19 related deaths since Jan. 20, 2020. The average amount awarded per death is $6,500, according to FEMA.
“FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program has helped provide over 300,000 people with critical financial relief during a time of such unexpected, unimaginable and widespread loss,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell in a statement.
The agency last month launched a new paid ad campaign in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas targeted at areas with large rates of COVID-19 deaths but lower rates of reimbursement requests in order to help connect people to available assistance. The agency is also reaching out to community groups and local media outlets to help publicize the program.
“Our new outreach campaign is designed to reach families, especially across underserved communities, where the cost of a funeral can be a financial burden to a loved one,” Criswell said.
“Our goal is to help families apply for assistance, as well as submit all required documents for existing applications.”
Must provide documentation
To be eligible for reimbursement, death certificates for those who died after May 16, 2020, must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19.
For deaths that occurred in the early months of the pandemic — from Jan. 20 to May 16, 2020 — death certificates must be accompanied by a signed statement from a medical examiner, coroner or the certifying official listed on the certificate indicating that COVID-19 was the cause or a contributing cause of death.
Expenses covered under the FEMA program include funeral services, cremation and interment, as well as the costs for caskets or urns, burial plots or cremation niches, markers or headstones, transportation or transfer of remains, clergy or officiant services, and the use of funeral home equipment or staff.
The program was first signed into law in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration, but began accepting applications weeks into President Joe Biden’s term. The initial bill provided $2 billion for the funeral assistance, which was exhausted in recent days. Funding going forward will come from Biden’s 2021 relief bill known as the “American Rescue Plan.”
FEMA is not accepting online applications for the reimbursement program. Rather, people eligible are directed to call the agency’s helpline at 1-844-684-6333, where they will be prompted to submit the required documentation. You will need to know your Social Security number and that of the deceased.