What to Know
- FEMA will offer COVID-19 funeral assistance in April. In the meantime, people who have COVID-19 funeral expenses are encouraged to keep and gather documentation.
- Assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state.
- FEMA is working to set up a dedicated toll-free phone number that can be used to apply for funeral assistance; supporting documentation can be filed online following the phone call.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering to provide financial relief for COVID-19-related funeral expenses.
Almost 550,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Starting April 1, FEMA is working to help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus by providing up to $9,000 in assistance per funeral, or $35,500 per application, the agency said.
The program comes at a time when new data just released by the CDC on Wednesday paints a shocking picture of the virus's impact. COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer.
Nearly 50,000 Texans have died of coronavirus since the pandemic began, including more than 3,800 in Dallas County, 3,200 in Tarrant County and more than 5,700 in the Houston area.
Funeral homes like Restland Funeral Home and Cemetery in Dallas have seen this part of the pandemic first hand.
"In the last year since the pandemic started, we knew it was going to be unprecedented," said Mike Day, general manager of cemetery operations.
During the height of the pandemic, they were serving up to 225 families per month, with multiple burials a day. That's about 40 to 50 more per month than they were used to.
During lockdown orders and limits on crowd gatherings, families had to choose who could attend in person. Like many funeral homes, Restland provided full-service live video streaming as an option.
Day said the average cost of a funeral running as high as $8,000 to $10,000. This FEMA reimbursement program can be a bright spot in a dark year.
“It’s never easy to pay for a funeral if you don’t have the means but this past year, it has definitely been compounded because of the loss of jobs business is shutting down," he said.
In a FAQ on their website, FEMA said they will assist with expenses for funeral services and internment or cremation including the costs associated with markers and headstones, clergy services, caskets or urns, and other additional expenses.
FEMA said the COVID-19 funeral assistance program will be implemented starting in April and applications will be accepted at that time. They are currently working to establish a phone number where applications can be filed. To qualify, applicants must meet certain conditions.
- The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, and the death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19, FEMA said.
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or a qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
- According to FEMA, the individual who died due to COVID-19 is not required to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien in order to be eligible for funeral assistance.
As the application process begins, people with COVID-19 funeral expenses are encouraged to gather and keep documentation, FEMA said. Additional guidance will be released to potential applicants and community partners once finalized.
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.
If an applicant is eligible for funeral assistance, they can choose to receive the funds via direct deposit or a check by mail.
According to FEMA, the relief is being made available under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The agency will provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. Currently, there is no deadline to apply for relief.
For more information on how to apply, visit the FEMA website.