Has Your Family Experienced a Covid-related Death?

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley
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Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley

There May Be Assistance with Funeral Expenses through FEMA

As the number of Covid diagnoses are again on the rise, many families are dealing with the death of a loved one caused by the coronavirus.  Those same families may not know there is assistance with funeral expenses available through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, if the death occurred after January 20, 2020. 

THE PROGRAM:  Congress allocated $2 billion to assist with funeral expenses.  Funerals in the United States have a median cost of approximately $8,000, meaning this aid program can fully reimburse families for the expenses incurred.  Included in what families may be reimbursed for is the cost of the casket, burial plot, clergy services, transfer of the body or remains, cremation and a headstone, among other expenses, for deaths that occurred in the US.

FEMA handles all of the applications on the telephone – to avoid scammers and because the information requested is both personal and sensitive. After receiving more than one million calls on the first day the program opened, the process has become easier to traverse. 

Families should obtain a copy of the death certificate where Covid or Coronavirus or Covid-pneumonia is suspected as the cause of death.  According to FEMA, applicants should be prepared to provide the social security number and date of birth of the deceased. They will also need to provide the location where the person passed away, funeral expense documents, and proof of funds received from other sources. 

Recently, FEMA’s policies have changed which have increased the deaths which occurred in early 2020 because at the beginning of the pandemic, Covid or coronavirus were not always listed on death certificates.

Funeral homes should be in a position to assist families.

You may qualify if:

  1. You are a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses on or after Jan. 20, 2020, and
  2. The funeral expenses were for an individual whose death in the United States, including the U.S. territories or the District of Columbia, may have been caused by, or was likely the result of, COVID-19.

APPLYING FOR BENEFITS:  A dedicated helpline has been set up for assistance, including help in multiple languages, to work with families to complete the application for benefits.  Families should call: 

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585

Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time

It typically takes 15-20 minutes to apply, and you can receive help with the application process.  Online applications are not available.  

See: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance

BEWARE OF SCAMS:  FEMA will call no one offering assistance, so beware of scammers seeking information from you following the death of a loved one.  Scammers use published information, like obituaries to gain the names and towns of where survivors live.  After reading an obituary, scammers know the name and location of the death of a loved one and use publicly available information to prey on families.  

WHERE TO SEND YOUR DOCUMENTS:  Once you have applied for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance and received your FEMA application number, you may submit required documentation to FEMA in several ways:

  • Upload documents to your gov account
  • Fax to: 855-261-3452
  • Mail to: O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782

QUESTIONS:  besides information in articles found on the internet or on FEMA’s website, frequently asked questions – such as how to apply and what documentation is needed – may be reviewed at: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq

HOW LONG DOES THIS PROCESS TAKE?   As with most things, the process takes time, and because of the overwhelming number of deaths from Covid recorded over the last year and a half, there is a backlog of applications, which has caused the processing of applications to take up to 6 months.

This assistance is welcome news for families suffering the tragic loss of a family member from Covid.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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