The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an alarming number of deaths over the past year and the families of those victims have been slammed with unexpected funeral costs. Many loved ones have had to suffer the loss of someone they loved while facing unanticipated financial strains caused by the pandemic.
In an effort to provide some relief for those Americans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced a new program.
“The COVID -19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families. At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus,” reads the official announcement of the program on FEMA’s website.
“Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate,” said acting FEMA administrator Bob Fenton.
Beginning in April, FEMA will provide financial relief for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. Anyone who lost a loved one to COVID-19 will be able to apply for retroactive reimbursements for funeral costs, up to $9,000 per burial. Funeral expenses will count as the purchase of burial, a plot, a headstone, clergy services, cremation, the transfer of remains or other services associated with a funeral.
Applicants for the program will be required to provide an official death certificate attributing the death either directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and show that the death occurred in the U.S. In addition, they will have to submit funeral expense documents, such as receipts or a funeral home contract. Applicants will also have to provide proof of funeral funds received from other sources, as the program will not reimburse funds received from burial insurance or financial assistance from agencies or other sources.
FEMA has also included a fraud alert on its website.
“We have received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. FEMA has not sent any such notifications and we do not contact people prior to them registering for assistance,” it reads.
To learn more, applicants can visit the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance page on FEMA.gov, or call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Hot Line at (844) 684-6333, or TTY at (800) 462-7585.