Cleveland, TN: As a part of the recent stimulus legislation passed by Congress, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is making available emergency funeral assistance for
those who died from COVID-19. Up to $9,000 per death may be provided if the applicant meets
the eligibility rules.
By Art Rhodes, Church of God Benefits Board
To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:
■ The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and
the District of Columbia.
■ The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by, “may have been caused
by,” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms.
■ The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who
incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
■ There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen,
non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
Currently, there is no online application for such assistance. To apply, you must call FEMA’s
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance hotline at (844) 684-6333 between the hours of 9:00 am and 9:00
pm ET, Monday through Friday. Only the next of kin or a family member who paid for funeral
expenses can submit an application for assistance. A funeral home cannot submit applications.
When you place the call to the FEMA Funeral Assistance hotline, you will need an official death
certificate for the person that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19, as well as
receipts and contracts to document the funeral expenses. Once you have an application
number, the supporting documents will need to be provided to FEMA. It should be noted that if
burial or funeral insurance was used, or if the person had pre-paid for their funeral prior to the
pandemic, those expenses may not be duplicated and only expenses that were not covered by
such policies will be subject to reimbursement.
Most general funeral expenses are covered under this reimbursement program, including a
casket or urn, burial plot, and headstone, as well as funeral home costs. While the maximum
per funeral reimbursement is $9,000, a person may apply for up to $35,500 per application if
others within the family died of COVID-19 as well.
Applications can be submitted for funeral expenses that occurred after January 20, 2020. FEMA
has not currently set an application deadline for seeking assistance under this program.
When calling the FEMA funeral assistance toll-free number – (844) 684-6333, the next of kin
should be prepared to spend at least 20 minutes on the phone answering pertinent questions
concerning the application. Due to the high volume of calls anticipated, you should also expect a busy signal as the FEMA staff works through the application process. To obtain such assistance, you will have to be persistent in your efforts to reach FEMA.