Critter Corner: FEMA will Offer Funeral Assistance for People Who Have Died of COVID-19

Dear Oakley,

My friend’s dad recently died of COVID-19. Funerals are so expensive. Does the government provide any relief to help pay for them?

Burr Yinghim

Dear Burr,

I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend’s father.

Grieving the loss of a loved one during the fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming. It is very difficult for people to make decisions about how to safely grieve and honor their loved ones during this unprecedented time of tragedy. Funeral expenses can also be difficult for loved ones given that so many people have lost their jobs and have limited resources.

The economic rescue package passed by Congress in December included $2 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to offer assistance to “an individual or household to meet disaster-related funeral expenses” incurred through December 31, 2020.  

FEMA Funds Will Continue to Cover Funeral Costs

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA will continue to provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses. Applications will be accepted starting in April 2021. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide up to $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per applicant to help with expenses related to coronavirus deaths that occurred after January 20, 2020, the agency said last Wednesday.

According to Acting FEMA Administrator, Bob Fenton, “(a)t FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”

The program is intended to help with costs for funeral services and interment or cremation.

To qualify, you need:

An official death certificate that attributes a person’s death to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the U.S. The death certificate must indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely the result of” COVID-19 or coronavirus-like symptoms.  
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 costs 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 or from other sources.

For more information about the program, click here.

Be Vigilant When Attending In-Person Funerals

In some situations, many people have become sick with COVID-19 after attending a funeral service. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities, changes have been made to the way funerals, visitations, and memorials to the deceased are held. Be sure to protect yourself and others when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, supporting each other, making funeral arrangements, and participating in funeral services and visitations.

Hope this is helpful,

Oakley

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