The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for over a year in the United States and continues to impose great emotional and financial burdens. However, loved ones of a coronavirus victim may be able to ease some of the financial burdens through a new funeral reimbursement program.
FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) implemented a program in April 2021 to assist individuals with COVID-19-related funeral expenses. The $2 billion program, funded through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, will reimburse up to $9,000 of expenses incurred per funeral between January 20, 2020 and December 2020. An applicant may be able to seek reimbursement for more than one funeral. FEMA will reimburse a maximum of $35,500 per application.
How to Apply
If you believe that you qualify for COVID-19 funeral assistance through FEMA, you may call 844-684-6333 (TTY: 800-462-7585) Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. ET to 9:00 p.m. ET. The call will last around 20 minutes and will serve as the beginning of your assistance application. FEMA is not accepting online applications.
FEMA will reimburse applicants for typical expenses associated with funeral services and interment or cremation, including but not limited to:
Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
Transfer of the remains
A casket or urn
A burial plot or cremation niche
A marker or headstone
Clergy or officiant services
Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
Use of the funeral home equipment or staff
Cremation or interment costs
Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
Expenses mandated by applicable local or state laws or ordinances
FEMA will only reimburse funeral expenses for a death that occurred in the U.S. or its territories. The death certificate must state that the death was attributed to or likely caused by COVID-19. The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien. There is no requirement for the deceased individual to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien. Finally, the expenses must have been incurred after January 20, 2020.
However, FEMA will not accept applications from minor children applying on behalf of an adult who does not meet all the eligibility criteria. Legal U.S. residents who are not eligible also include temporary tourist visa holders, foreign students, temporary work visa holders, and habitual residents, such as citizens of the Federal States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Information and Documentation
During the initial phone call, a FEMA representative will likely ask for information such as:
The Social Security numbers of the applicant and the deceased individual
The dates of birth of the applicant and the deceased individual
The applicant’s current mailing address
The applicant’s current telephone number
The location or address where the deceased individual passed away
Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations
CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
The routing and account number of the applicant’s checking or savings account (if requesting direct deposit)
In order to evaluate whether applicants qualify for the program and how much they will be reimbursed, FEMA requires an official death certificate, funeral expense documents (such as receipts and funeral home contracts), and documentation of reimbursement from other sources, such as an insurance plan. (Life insurance proceeds do not count.) FEMA will use these documents to verify that the death was likely caused by COVID-19 and occurred in the United States. FEMA will also verify that the expenses were paid by the applicant through the applicant’s identifying information on receipts and contracts and will verify the dates when the expenses were incurred. FEMA likely will ask you to submit these documents after your initial phone call.
Official death certificate
Funeral expenses documents
Proof of funds received from other sources
If more than one person incurred funeral expenses for the same funeral, they may become co-applicants by registering with FEMA under the initial application. Only one applicant may be included on an application, but FEMA will work with applicants on an individual basis if several individuals contributed to the same funeral or a different name appears on some receipts. However, FEMA will generally only reimburse one applicant. It may be wise to agree on one applicant, who will share the reimbursement once FEMA funds are received.
A funeral home, business, or other third party cannot apply for FEMA funeral assistance on behalf of a family or individual.
FEMA will never initiate contact with an individual to register them for assistance. Be sure to reach out to FEMA directly, and do not allow a third party to register you for assistance.