COVID-19 funeral assistance available through FEMA

Those who have lost loved ones due to COVID may qualify for some federal help with funeral expenses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be taking applications for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance. FEMA says assistance with expenses 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.

Steven Johnson, funeral director for the Bohm-Calarco-Smith, Burdett & Sanford and H.E. Turner & Co., Inc. funeral homes, said funeral directors at those funeral homes have been in webinars with FEMA.

“We’ve gotten multiple emails regarding what they were doing,” he said. “The funeral directors’ associations have encouraged us to reach out (to the community). We’re members of New York State Funeral Directors Association as well as National Funeral Directors Association, both of which have been providing guidance on this.”

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA will begin providing financial assistance for funeral expenses, incurred after Jan. 20, 2020, for deaths related to COVID-19 to help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the pandemic.

“They’re (FEMA) not going to give folks more than they actually spent,” he said. “That’s why they need a paid-in-full bill.”

To be eligible for funeral assistance, a person must meet these conditions:

n The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia;

n The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19;

n The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020;

n There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

Prepaid funerals are not eligible for these funds.

“If you had COVID-19 funeral expenses, we encourage you to keep and gather documentation,” Johnson said. Types of information should include:

n 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;

n 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; and

nproof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA is not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

Johnson said the three funeral homes will review documents anyone brings to them.

“We can help them get the documents lined up and provide some help making the application. We’re under the impression that we can help people initiate a claim. Folks are welcome to contact us to talk about their circumstances,” he said. “We had a lady today who called who thought she might qualify because her mom passed away from COVID. Unfortunately that won’t be the case because the funeral was prepaid.”

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