COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

There have been more than 560,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the United States.

To help those left behind, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people,” acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said in a release announcing the federal program. “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 launches Monday, April 12. The following information — along with other resources — can be on the FEMA website for the program.

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Volunteers with the COVID Memorial Project install 20,000 American flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic September 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. The flags are displayed on the grounds of the Washington Monument facing the White House.

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 qualified alien 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.

How to apply for funeral reimbursement

FEMA encourages people who have had COVID-19 funeral expenses to keep and gather funeral documentation. According to FEMA, the following types of information should include:

  • 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.
  • Funeral expenses documents that include 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. FEMA is not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

The application process opens Monday, April 12.

For assistance, you can call FEMA at 844-684-6333 or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Assistance is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

How are funds received?

Those eligible for funeral assistance will receive a check by mail, or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you choose when you apply for assistance, according to FEMA.

FEMA warns about scams

According to FEMA, the funeral assistance program is working to reduce the chance of fraud. FEMA says it will not contact anyone until they have called FEMA or have applied for assistance. If you receive an unsolicited calls or emails, FEMA says you should not disclose information such as the name, birth date or Social Security number of any deceased family member.

If you doubt a FEMA representative is legitimate, FEMA says you should hang up and report it to its helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies, FEMA says.

If you have questions about the program, FEMA has a FAQ page with more information.

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