Apr. 2—The past year has been a challenge for families who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many instances, people were not prepared for an unexpected death in the family and had made no prior funeral arrangements, said Patricia Daughtry, general manager of Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home in Brunswick.
"Most of the people we did see didn't make a plan," she said. "In most cases, people weren't prepared."
The unexpected loss of a loved one also put a financial strain on families. It was especially hard on those laid off from jobs.
The federal government is stepping in to help families who lost loved ones to COVID-19. They can apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement of funeral costs..
Up to $9,000 per funeral will be paid, with a limit of $35,000 for those who lost multiple family members.
"At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters," said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton in a news release. "The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people."
Daughtry said most people settled for cremations because of the cost and the restrictions for large gatherings for a funeral. They were able to work out a financial agreement with those unable to pay the full cost of cremation, she said.
"Our experience was we did more cremations and immediate burials," she said.
The program will help cover funeral expenses, including interment and cremation for COVID-related deaths from Jan. 20 through Dec. 31 last year.
FEMA is still setting up the application process.
Eligible costs is expected to include transportation for up to two people to identify a deceased family member, transfer of remains, a casket or urn, burial plot or cremation niche, marker or headstone, clergy or officiant services and arrangement of the funeral ceremony. It also will cover use of funeral home equipment or staff.
For a list of requirements and more information go to fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral- assistance/faq.