How to Apply for FEMA Covid-19 Funeral Assistance – Forbes Advisor
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The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of 900,000 Americansplacing the financial stress of having to put a loved one to rest on millions of families.
To help, the federal government is offering financial assistance to those who have paid funeral or end-of-life expenses due to Covid-19. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 both established funds for funeral expenses for Americans who died of Covid. There is no cost and currently no deadline to apply.
As of February 2022, FEMA has distributed over $1.78 billion in funeral assistance to over 273,000 people.
Burying and memorializing a loved one is not cheap. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the national median cost of a funeral with viewing, burial and vault (usually required by a cemetery) in 2019, the last available was $9,135. This does not include the cost of monuments or markers, or expenses such as flowers and obituaries.
The FEMA program, in April 2021, did not start smoothly. Within 90 minutes of the government posting the helpline number online, the call center was inundated with nearly a million calls, causing technical problems and jamming phone lines .
But despite the initial blockages, the applicants are making progress in their requests for help. Users of a Reddit forum for people navigating the aid program reported receiving funds approximately two months after applying.
Here’s who is eligible for the funeral assistance fund and how to apply.
How to Apply for FEMA Covid-19 Funeral Assistance
Applications can only be submitted by phone (844-684-6333) as there is no online option to expedite the process; creating a new online application would have taken several months longer to set up. The helpline number operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, and FEMA estimates the application takes about 20 minutes.
The FEMA-enlisted contracted helpline employs 5,000 specially trained agents to help bereaved people get the support they need while they go through the application process.
Once you have completed your application over the phone, you can upload the required documentation to a DisasterAssistance.gov account, fax them to (855-261-3452) or mail them to FEMA (PO BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782).
If you are approved, the funds will be sent by check or direct deposit. You can choose the option you prefer during the request.
The program awards up to $9,000 per funeral with a maximum of $35,500 per application, which means you can apply for more than one deceased person.
Who can apply – and qualify – for the funds is surprisingly broad. You must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen, or qualified alien who paid funeral expenses after January 20, 2020 (meaning foreign students and temporary work visa holders cannot apply). Although the deceased person must have died in the United States, they do not have to be a US citizen, non-citizen, or qualified alien for the applicant to be eligible for the funds.
The expenses that can be covered by FEMA funds include transportation to identify the deceased, burial plot, casket or urn, transfer of remains, cremation, use of a funeral home and more.
To prevent fraud, FEMA requires documents, including:
- An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to Covid-19
- Funeral expense documents that include the applicant’s name
- Documents showing the name of the deceased
- Receipts for the amount of expenses
- The date of the funeral
- Proof of funds received from other sources for funeral expenses, such as voluntary organizations, government programs or other sources.
Some death certificates from the start of the pandemic do not list Covid-19 as the cause of death. For deaths that occurred between January 20 and May 16, 2020, claimants may submit a signed statement from the person who certified the death certificate or from the local medical examiner or coroner attributing the death to Covid.