TALLAHASSEE (WTXL) — The federal government will start offering financial assistance to help cover funeral costs for people who have died of COVID-19.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide up to $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per applicant to help with expenses related to coronavirus deaths that occurred after January 20, 2020. The applicant responsible for COVID-19 funeral expenses will need to provide a lot of information when they apply for assistance. You are encouraged to gather all the required documents before you start the application process.
At Culley's MeadowWood Funeral Home in Tallahassee, they already help their clients stay organized. "Just because the services are over and complete, we're not finished helping you," said Fiona Nicholson. The funeral home General Manager suggests families get a binder to keep all of their documents together. "We do what we call an aftercare visit with families seven to ten days after the service to help them go through a checklist and make sure they know who to notify and how to notify them," she said.
The information comes in handy when it's time to get important documents you'll need to apply for reimbursements like a death certificate.
John Ricco, Executive Director for the Florida Cemetary, Cremation & Funeral Association says they're already working with their clients to help families understand how the process will work. "FEMA is establishing the process right now, the preliminary outline that they've put forth is they will have a 1-800 number that families can call and once they call and give some preliminary information. They'll be assigned a case number and then ultimately in April FEMA will have a web portal where they go in and enter their data on their loved one and upload receipts and contracts and proofs of expenses," he said.
Types of accepted documentation include an official death certificate, funeral expense documents like receipts and funeral home contracts, and proof of funds received from other sources for use toward funeral costs.
John Griffin, Jr. with Strong and Jones Funeral Home tells ABC 27 they've serviced several families who had more than one person die from COVID-related illnesses just weeks apart. "We try to make it convenient for families because you have to realize some families don't have the jobs or the employment that they used to have," he said.
Griffin explained that while businesses will not benefit from the FEMA reimbursements, it will give families an incentive to pay their entire costs of services upfront. "I can almost say we gave funerals away. Nine times out of ten if you don't do anything or get so much upfront then you may never see them again." He said funerals can range anywhere between $10,000 all the way up to $20,000 depending on how families customize their services, like caskets and headstones.
If an applicant is eligible for funeral assistance, they can choose to receive the funds via direct deposit or a check by mail. To be eligible for COVID-19 funeral assistance, the policy states:
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020 for a death attributed to COVID-19.
- If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should apply under a single application as applicant and co-applicant. FEMA will also consider documentation from other individuals not listed as the applicant and co-applicant who may have incurred funeral expenses as part of the registration for the deceased individual.
- An applicant may apply for multiple deceased individuals.
- The COVID-19-related death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
- This assistance is limited to a maximum financial amount of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.
- Funeral assistance is intended to assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation.
The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance line number will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday. Applications begin April 12 by calling 844-684-6333 or TTY: 800-462-7585. The agency has not yet provided an online application option.
Also, FEMA has already received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. The agency does not contact people prior to registering them for assistance.
For more information about this assistance, visit COVID-19 Funeral Assistance at www.FEMA.gov.