So many families across the United States have been hit hard by COVID-19 – emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Fund, FEMA can provide financial assistance to families who lost a loved one to COVID-19. Let’s take a look at how this fund will work, who’s eligible, and what documentation you will need to apply.
Administrated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), eligible families may receive a reimbursement of up to $9,000 per funeral for COVID-related burial and funeral expenses (up to $35,000 maximum). The program will retroactively reimburse for funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.
On March 13, 2020, the president declared COVID-19 a national emergency. Under the Stafford Act, FEMA can offer funeral assistance for presidentially declared disasters or emergencies. While uncommon, FEMA has provided disaster-related funeral expenses before, specifically during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
Who Is Eligible?
At this time, just about everyone is eligible to apply. However, it’s up to FEMA to determine who receives a reimbursement and how much they will receive.
To apply, families must meet the following conditions to be eligible for reimbursement:
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020, for a death attributed to COVID-19.
- The COVID-19-related death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
Families will receive varying amounts, as determined by FEMA. For example, all methods utilized to pay for a funeral or cremation will be taken into account before a reimbursement is given.
As for reimbursement amounts, the assistance is limited to a maximum financial amount of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application. This funeral assistance applies to funeral services, interment, and cremation.
If given a reimbursement, families will receive a check by mail or a direct deposit. However, if your family is not given a reimbursement, you may appeal to FEMA directly.
How Do I Apply?
Remember, reimbursements will vary, and some families will not receive a reimbursement at all. The intention behind the fund is to assist families who were unable to pay for funeral expenses or took a hard financial hit doing so.
To apply, every family must complete application forms and send in the following documentation:
Official Death Certificate
Applicants must include an official death certificate. It’s best if the certificate attributes the death to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States. The death certificate would indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely the result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms.
However, for those with a family member who died between January 20 and May 16, 2020, the death certificate may not have indicated that the death was COVID-19 related (because it was so early in the pandemic and testing was not yet reliable). In addition to a death certificate, these families can submit a signed letter from a coroner, medical examiner, or an official who can certify that their loved one’s death actually was COVID-19 related.
This signed document does not replace the death certificate but is considered an additional document to include in the application packet.
Funeral Expense Documents
Applicants must include funeral expense documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.). These documents should 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
Applicants must provide proof of funds received from other sources specifically used toward funeral costs to avoid duplicate benefits. In other words, a family can’t receive funding from FEMA while also receiving funding from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, federal/state/local/tribal /territorial government programs or agencies, or other such sources.
What if Multiple People Helped Pay for a Funeral?
If multiple people contributed toward funeral expenses, everyone 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.
If multiple deaths occurred in your family related to COVID-19, you can apply for each one.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will accept applications starting April 12, 2021. If you believe you may be eligible for reimbursements, begin gathering the required documentation. Also, don’t forget that your funeral provider can help you through this process. Additionally, for answers to frequently asked questions, go to the FEMA Funeral Assistance FAQ for even more details.
Finally, remember that FEMA has a dedicated toll-free number for inquiries: 844-684-6333 or TTY: 800-462-7585. They are available Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT.
Hopefully this information will help you determine whether your family is eligible to receive a reimbursement. While this won’t bring your loved one back, it may assist your family through hard times and give a little hope for the future.