The Federal Emergency Management Agency began accepting applications on Monday for its program to assist families with the financial expenses of funerals for COVID-19 related deaths.
FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program will reimburse individuals and households for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred between Jan. 20, 2020 and December 2020 to help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the pandemic.
The program is funded with $2 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. FEMA says assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.
Who Is Eligible?
To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions, according to FEMA:
- The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
- The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or lawful permanent resident who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
- There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
Who Is Not Eligible?
- A minor child cannot apply on behalf of an adult who is not a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
- There are several categories of legal U.S. residents who are not eligible for FEMA’s Individual and Households Program assistance, including funeral assistance. These include, but are not limited to:
- Temporary tourist visa holders
- Foreign students
- Temporary work visa holders
- Habitual residents such as citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
What Information Will I Need to Apply?
The following types of acceptable documentation are required:
- An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The death certificate must indicate the death "may have been caused by" or "was likely the result of" COVID-19 or COVID-19 like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution.
- Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened.
- Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. Funeral assistance may not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance,received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.
What Funeral Expenses Are Covered?
According to FEMA’s website, the program will assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Those typically include, but are not limited to:
- Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
- Transfer of remains
- Casket or urn
- Burial plot or cremation niche
- Marker or headstone
- Clergy or officiant services
- Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
- Use of funeral home equipment or staff
- Cremation or interment costs
- Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
- Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances
How Do I Apply?
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Those who qualify can complete an application by calling FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line at 844-684-6333 (TTY: 800-462-7585) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. ET to 9 p.m. ET. FEMA says it will take about 20 minutes to apply and multilingual services will be available. No online applications are being accepted.
Applicants who were responsible for the funeral expenses of multiple deceased individuals can apply for assistance for more than one death. However, assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or the District of Columbia.
Approved applicants can receive the funds by direct deposit or a mailed check.
Someone Helped Me Pay for Funeral Expenses. How Can They Apply for Assistance?
If more than one individual contributed toward funeral expenses, they must register with FEMA under the same application as the applicant and co-applicant, or the first applicant that submits all required documentation will be awarded COVID-19 Funeral Assistance for the deceased individual. No more than one co-applicant can be included on an application.
Also, if several people contributed to the funeral expenses of a deceased person, FEMA says it will work with applicants in these situations and those who submit multiple receipts for funeral expenses when their name does not appear on the receipt.
Can a Funeral Home or Third Party Apply on Behalf of the Family?
No, funeral homes are not eligible to apply on behalf of a family or to be a co-applicant on the Funeral Assistance application. The person applying must be an individual, not a business, who incurred the funeral expenses.
BEWARE OF SCAMMERS: Third parties are also not eligible to apply on behalf of a family. FEMA issued a warning after receiving reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. The agency said it does not contact people to register them for assistance.
For additional information, visit FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance web page here.