Apr. 10—Residents who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 will soon be able to apply for funeral assistance to help offset costs.
Beginning Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin taking applications via a call center, which can be reached at 844-684-6333. The center will be open to take calls from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The funeral expenses must have been incurred after Jan. 20, 2020, and families can receive up to $9,000 from the program.
FEMA was authorized to provide the money from two pieces of legislation recently passed by Congress: the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
To be eligible for funeral assistance, the following conditions must be met:
—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 Jan. 20, 2020.
There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.
FEMA encourages families that may be eligible to start gathering the following documentation:
—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 (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.
—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.
While families can apply for assistance at any time, if they do wish to have a memorial service when it is safe to do so, FEMA recommends waiting until after all services have been contracted to avoid the hassle of amending an initial application.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina has lost 8,138 residents to the virus. Of those, 175 were Aiken County residents.
"This has been an extraordinarily difficult year as hundreds of thousands of families throughout the country have unexpectedly had to plan a funeral when a loved one died of COVID-19," said Walker Posey, owner of Posey Funeral Directors in North Augusta. "Our hearts are with, not only the families we have served, but everyone in this community who is grieving the death of a loved one or friend due to the pandemic. While this assistance cannot take away their pain and grief, it will make a tremendous difference by enabling them to meaningfully honor the life of their loved one and lay them to rest with dignity."
For more information, visit fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.