QUESTION: I recently saw a report on television about a government funeral assistance program available to families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic. What can you tell me about this? I lost my 78 year old mother to COVID-19 in 2021 and I want to know if I am still eligible for funeral funds and if so what I need to do to get them.
ANSWER: I am very sorry for the loss of your mother. The government program you are referring to is the COVID Funeral Assistance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The program is part of the US bailout, a stimulus package passed in 2021 to help the country manage financially amid the pandemic.
This program, which has no end date, offers up to $9,000 to cover the cost of a funeral for someone who died of COVID as early as January 2020.
Unfortunately, less than half of those considered eligible for funeral assistance actually applied for it. Here’s what you need to know about the program requirements and how to apply.
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To request COVID funeral assistance, you must do so over the phone by calling FEMA at (844) 684-6333, anytime from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. The application process takes approximately 20 minutes. After you apply, FEMA will provide an application number, which you can use to create an online account at DisasterAssistance.gov, if you wish.
You will then need to submit supporting documentation, including a death certificate for your mother, but it must state that her death “may have been caused by” or “was likely the result of” COVID or COVID-like symptoms.
Their death must also have taken place in the United States on or after January 20, 2020.
If you don’t have it, you won’t be eligible.
You will also need to submit proof of funeral expenses, such as itemized receipts, bills or funeral contracts. These supporting documents can be submitted either online (through your DisasterAssistance.gov account), by mail (PO Box 10001, Hyattsville, Md. 20782), or by fax (855-261-3452).
Once the documents are received, it takes approximately 45 days for FEMA to make an eligibility decision.
Families who have had multiple deaths from the coronavirus can also apply. A family can receive up to $35,000 for multiple funerals.
Reimbursements can be used to cover any portion of funeral expenses, including burial plots, caskets, body preparation, cremation, urns, clergy, services and headstones and related costs state or local orders and the production of death certificates.
Prepaid funerals are not eligible for refunds. Any payment made specifically for a funeral before death is considered duplication and is not eligible.
If FEMA approves your application, the funds will either be deposited into your bank account or mailed by check, usually within a few days of approval.
If, however, you receive a letter from FEMA stating that you are not eligible, or the amount awarded is not sufficient, you have the right to appeal within 60 days of FEMA’s decision letter. .
For more details on the COVID Funeral Assistance Program, visit FEMA.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.
Jim Miller is editor of Savvy Senior. Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org.