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Apr. 13—Families who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus pandemic in the past 15 months could begin applying Monday to recover funeral expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The recently passed COVID-19 relief package provided funds to reimburse families up to $9,000 when they present a death certificate that lists COVID-19 as the cause of death and receipts for funeral expenses dated after Jan. 20, 2020.
As of Monday, 751 people in Maine had died of the virus.
The Maine Funeral Directors Association has provided its members with guidance on how to help families apply for reimbursement, according to James Fernald, manager of Brookings-Smith Funeral Home in Bangor.
Fernald estimated that about 30 families who had used the firm's services in Greater Bangor would qualify for reimbursement.
"We are reaching out to them to make sure they have this information," he said.
To qualify for reimbursement, the death must have occurred in the U.S., including its territories, and the death certificate must attribute the cause of death to COVID-19. The deceased does not have to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien but the person who applies for reimbursement must be one of those.
In announcing the reimbursement program, Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said that it fell under the agency's mission of helping people before, during and after disasters.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people," he said. "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 cost of funeral services and interment or cremation, including a casket or urn, are included as are the following expenses:
— Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased.
— Transfer of remains.
— Burial plot or cremation niche and marker or headstone.
— Clergy or officiant services and arrangement of the funeral ceremony.
— Use of funeral home equipment or staff.
Individuals who had prepaid funeral plans do not qualify for reimbursement. If families received financial assistance from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources, those amounts should be reported and will not be reimbursed.
People who would like to see if they are eligible for reimbursement should call 844-684-6333 to begin the application process. On Monday, the agency said on its website that high call volumes were causing technical issues.
FEMA representatives are not calling individuals about funeral reimbursements but the agency has received reports that scammers are representing themselves to be from FEMA.
There is no deadline for applications.