FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral assistance hotline receives over 1 million calls on first day

David Matthews, New York Daily News
·1 min read

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said this week it received more than 1 million calls to its new COVID-19 funeral assistance hotline during its first day in operation.

The agency’s new program, which launched Monday, offers families up to $9,000 in assistance for funeral costs.

A FEMA spokesperson told CNN that a bulk of the calls occurred within 90 minutes of the phone lines opening.

FEMA acting Administrator Robert Fenton said during a Senate hearing Wednesday the agency hoped to start sending checks next week. He added that the number of applications already received by FEMA “represents about 10% of the deaths so far.”

FEMA has received more than 56,000 applications and apologized to anyone who experienced a technical issue or received a busy signal when they called. The agency said there is no deadline to apply for assistance.

Around $2 billion was allocated for burial assistance in the December COVID relief deal. The deal passed in March gave an additional $50 billion to FEMA for COVID-related costs. The agency has hired 5,000 people to take calls and process applications “with a commitment to spend as much time as is needed with each applicant.”

“We want to make sure that we empathetically and compassionately help everyone that had a loss,” Fenton told the Senate committee.

FEMA personnel have also been deployed in the vaccination rollout.

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, at least 565,067 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. since 2020.