Over 560,000 people in the U.S. have died from Covid-19 as of April 12, which means that exponentially more are still here to grieve them. For many, that grief has yet to be processed, as risk of infection hindered the traditional ways we mourn and honor a loved one—particularly, in-person funerals, where friends and family can gather for a proper sendoff.
Now, as the number of vaccinated Americans zips past the 21 percent mark and public spaces reopen at a state-specific pace, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced a Covid-19 Funeral Assistance program to help cover burial costs.
As anyone who has planned a funeral knows, those costs get expensive quickly. According to insurance marketplace Policy Genius, the total can run an average of between $8,000-$10,000, depending on the state. FEMA's financial assistance program applies to "COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020," per their site.
The full list of what's covered includes the casket or urn, headstone, and cremation or internment costs. FEMA's maximum reimbursement will be $9,000 per deceased person. If you've had to manage multiple Covid-related burials, you can apply for multiple reimbursements in your application, with a maximum reimbursement total of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or the District of Columbia.
To be eligible, the deceased person's death must have occurred in the U.S., including the U.S. territories and D.C. You'll need to be able to provide a death certificate that indicates the cause was attributed to Covid-19. The person applying for assistance must be a "U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien," according to the site. Crucially, however, the deceased person does not have to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
If you've already held a funeral for someone whose death was related to Covid-19, or the date of a scheduled service is too soon to apply, the good news is that you can also request assistance retroactively. In addition meeting the main requirements, retain as much documentation as possible, including all receipts you have for things like a funeral home contract. Disclosing any additional burial aid you might've received, such as through insurance or your state, is required as well.
To apply, call FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number at 844-684-6333, or toll free at 800-462-7585. Lines are open Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST, with multilingual services available. If a representative determines that you're eligible, funds are paid via check or direct deposit.
As with any transactions involving sensitive information, scams will inevitably target those seeking assistance. "FEMA will not contact anyone until they have called FEMA or have applied for assistance," the agency makes clear in its FAQ. "Do not disclose information such as the name, birth date or social security number of any deceased family member to any unsolicited telephone calls or e-mails from anyone claiming to be a federal employee or from FEMA." If someone reaches out and claims to be a FEMA rep before you've applied—or, if you have any reason to doubt that someone reaching out is who they claim they are—halt contact and reach out to those who can help via FEMA's dedicated phone line.
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