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Government program helps cover COVID-19 funeral costs

Families are facing unexpected funeral costs after losing a loved one to the coronavirus. How to apply for a government benefit that will reimburse up to $9,000.

SAN ANTONIO — The federal government, through FEMA, is helping families cover funeral costs for those who died of complications related to the coronavirus. But not all eligible families are taking advantage of the FEMA COVD-19 Funeral Assistance program.

“I talk to people all of the time and they had no idea that this program is available,” said Ed Michael Reggie of Funeralocity.com. “Only 250,000 people of over 600,000 eligible have even applied. It’s a very generous program. There’s up to $9,000 per funeral in reimbursement available. There’s no income requirement.”

FEMA notes income will not affect your eligibility, but you will be asked to provide your annual gross household income when you apply for demographic purposes.

Reggie said it has gotten easier to apply for these death benefits.

“It was initially difficult to get through the system, but all reports that we hear now is that there would be modest hold times,” he said.

You can only apply by calling FEMA at 844-684-6333. You cannot apply online. You can call during the week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT. Multilingual services are available.  

The benefit is for anyone who died of COVID-19 complications since Jan. 20, 2020.

You will need the following items when you make the call:

  • Name of the deceased.
  • Social security number of the deceased.
  • Date of birth for the deceased.
  • Date the funeral occurred.
  • Location or address where the person died.
  • Social security number for the applicant.
  • Date of birth for the applicant.
  • Current mailing address for the applicant.
  • Information about burial or funeral insurance policies.
  • Information about other funeral assistance received such as donations or assistance from voluntary organizations.
  • Routing and account number of the applicant checking or savings account for direct deposit (if requested).

A FEMA representative will assign you an application number. Include that number on any documentation you submit to FEMA.

FEMA will then send you a letter with information about COVID-19 Funeral Assistance and a list of documents you must submit within three to five business days. That documentation you will need to submit includes:

  • A death certificate. It must indicate the death was caused by or “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution.
  • If the death certificate was issued from Jan. 20 to May 16, 2020 and does not list COVID-19 as a cause of death, you may submit the death certificate along with a signed statement from the original certifier of the death or the local medical examiner or coroner attributing the death to COVID-19.
  • The death must have happened in the U.S., including the U.S. territories or the District of Columbia.
  • Itemized receipts. Receipts for funeral expenses must include your name as the individual responsible for the expenses, the deceased individual’s name, itemized funeral expenses, and proof funeral expenses were incurred on or after January 20, 2020.
  • You must provide proof of funds received from other sources specifically designated for funeral costs. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance may not duplicate burial or funeral insurance proceeds, pre-planned or pre-paid funeral contracts, pre-paid trusts for funeral expenses, irrevocable trusts for Medicaid, financial assistance from voluntary organizations, government programs or agencies, or any other sources specifically designated or funeral expenses. Any eligible COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will be reduced by the amount of other assistance you received for the same expenses. Note that life insurance proceeds are not considered a duplication of COVID-19 Funeral Assistance benefits.

FEMA will issue a one-time payment for funeral expenses. You should only apply after incurring all applicable expenses.

Some covered expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Funeral services
  • Cremation
  • Interment
  • Caskets
  • Urns
  • Burial plots
  • Headstones
  • Transportation for up to two people to identify the deceased
  • Transfer of remains
  • Clergy or officiant of services
  • Arrange of the funeral ceremony
  • Use of funeral home equipment or staff
  • Costs for producing and certifying multiple death certificates

FEMA says it takes about a month for to get approved for the money. The reimbursement is sent a few days afterward.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@Kens5.com or call us as 210-377-8647.