COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

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Ben Yoder, Des Moines Register
Published 1:13 p.m. ET April 10, 2021

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USA TODAY

There have been more than 560,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the United States.

To help those left behind, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people,” acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said in a release announcing the federal program. “Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”

The program launches Monday, April 12. The following information — along with other resources — can be on the FEMA website for the program.

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Volunteers with the COVID Memorial Project install 20,000 American flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic September 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. The flags are displayed on the grounds of the Washington Monument facing the White House. (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images)

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions, according to FEMA:

    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 January 20, 2020.There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.

How to apply for funeral reimbursement

FEMA encourages people who have had COVID-19 funeral expenses to keep and gather funeral documentation. According to FEMA, the following types of information should include:

    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 that include 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.

The application process opens Monday, April 12.

For assistance, you can call FEMA at 844-684-6333 or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Assistance is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

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COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

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COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

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COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

The U.S. flag flies at half staff at a port of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 24, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. U.S. President Joe Biden ordered U.S. flags on federal property to be flown at half staff for five days of mourning after the U.S. passed 500,000 deaths due to COVID-19. John Moore, Getty ImagesFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

A solitary runner passes under the flags hanging at half-staff surrounding the Washington Monument at day break in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. President Joe Biden ordered the flags to be lowered in honor of the 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. J. David Ake, APFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) join fellow members of Congress to observe a moment of silence on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, on Feb. 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congressional leaders held a candlelight ceremony to mark the more than 500,000 U.S. deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Al Drago, Getty ImagesFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

Members of Congress observe a moment of silence on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, on Feb. 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congressional leaders held a candlelight ceremony to mark the more than 500,000 U.S. deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Al Drago, Getty ImagesFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

Cindy Pollock does maintenance on the construction flags in her front yard in Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Pollock began planting the tiny flags across her yard — one for each of the more than 1,800 Idahoans killed by COVID-19 — the toll was mostly a number. Until two women she had never met rang her doorbell in tears, seeking a place to mourn the husband and father they had just lost. Otto Kitsinger, APFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

Paul Kerins and Daniela Facchini of Washington D.C. listen as the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. rings its bells 500 times to mark 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Jasper Colt, USA TODAYFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. rings its bells 500 times to mark 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Jasper Colt, USA TODAYFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

President Joe Biden speaks about lives lost to COVID-19 after death toll passed 500,000, in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, DC, Feb. 22, 2021. SAUL LOEB, AFP via Getty ImagesFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the more than 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the Cross Hall of the White House on Feb. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Also on hand for the ceremony were first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff. Pool photo by Doug Mills, Getty ImagesFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff bow their heads during a ceremony to honor the 500,000 Americans that died from COVID-19, at the White House, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci, APFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hold a moment of silence during a candlelight ceremony in honor of those who lost their lives to Coronavirus on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, February 22, 2021. President Joe Biden called the milestone of more than 500,000 US deaths from COVID-19 “heartbreaking” on Monday and urged the country to unite against the pandemic. “I know what it’s like,” an emotional Biden said in a national television address, referring to his own long history of family tragedies. SAUL LOEB, AFP via Getty ImagesFullscreen

COVID funeral assistance: What you need to know about FEMA program and how you can apply

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff participate in a moment of silence during a ceremony to honor the 500,000 Americans that died from COVID-19, at the White House, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci, APFullscreen

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How are funds received?

Those eligible for funeral assistance will receive a check by mail, or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you choose when you apply for assistance, according to FEMA.

FEMA warns about scams

According to FEMA, the funeral assistance program is working to reduce the chance of fraud. FEMA says it will not contact anyone until they have called FEMA or have applied for assistance. If you receive an unsolicited calls or emails, FEMA says you should not disclose information such as the name, birth date or Social Security number of any deceased family member.

If you doubt a FEMA representative is legitimate, FEMA says you should hang up and report it to its helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies, FEMA says.

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