Federal Emergency Management Agency opens COVID-19 Funeral Assistance application

By Ardith Van Riper

     On April 12, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance application to the general public.  The program provides financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020, and funded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan 2021.

     Per their press release, “FEMA is now moving rapidly to implement this funeral assistance program nationwide.”

     To be eligible for COVID-19 funeral assistance, the policy states:

·         The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020 for a death attributed to COVID-19.

·         If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should apply under a single application as applicant and co-applicant. FEMA will also consider documentation from other individuals not listed as the applicant and co-applicant who may have incurred funeral expenses as part of the registration for the deceased individual.

·         An applicant may apply for multiple deceased individuals.

·         The COVID-19-related death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

·         This assistance is limited to a maximum financial amount of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application. 

·         Funeral assistance is intended to assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation.

     Potential applicants should gather the following documentation:

·         An official death certificate that attributes the death to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States. 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 expense documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that include the applicant’s name, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses and dates the funeral expenses were incurred.

·         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, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, federal/state/local/tribal/territorial government programs or agencies, or other sources.

     Call the FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line number at 844-684-6333 to apply.  Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM (CST).  FEMA will not accept online applications.

     FEMA warns of scams and has controls in place to mitigate fraudulent activity.  Per FEMA.gov, “FEMA will not contact anyone until they have called FEMA or have applied for assistance.  Do not disclose information such as the name, birth date or social security number of any deceased family member to any unsolicited telephone calls or e-mails from anyone claiming to be a federal employee or from FEMA.”

     Report questionable activity to local law enforcement agencies or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

     For additional eligibility information, expenses covered, and other criteria, visit FEMA’s FAQ website at https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq.