The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in significant ways. Many are unfortunately dealing with the loss of someone due to the virus. On top of the emotional strain death creates, costly funeral expenses can also take their toll. To help ease some of the financial stress created by the death of a loved one because of the virus, the government is providing up to $9,000 for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.
Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Act of 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing financial assistance to affected survivors. American citizens, U.S. territory nationals, and non-citizens legally admitted to the United States, who paid funeral expenses after January 20, 2020, for an individual who likely died from COVID-19 within the United States or U.S. territories, may apply, regardless of their income.
The COVID-19 funeral assistance covers expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. These expenses typically include, but are not limited to:
- Casket or urn
- Burial plot or cremation niche
- Marker or headstone
- Transfer of remains
- Cremation or interment costs
- Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
- Use of funeral home equipment or staff
- Clergy or officiant services
- Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
- Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
- Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances
FEMA began accepting applications on April 12, 2021. The application process is done by phone. Applicants need to call 844-684-6333|TTY: 800-462-7585 Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Be aware that call volumes may be high and wait times long. There is currently no deadline to apply.
Be prepared to spend approximately 20 minutes on the phone completing the application. During the call you will be asked to provide information so you want to be prepared. Prior to calling make sure to have the following:
- Social Security number and date of birth for both the applicant and the deceased individual
- Location or address where the deceased individual passed away
- Information about the burial or funeral insurance policies
- Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations, CARES Act grants, and assistance from voluntary organizations
- Current mailing address, telephone number, and banking information of the applicant
Applicants must provide a copy of the death certificate, proof of funeral expenses incurred, and proof of assistance received from any other source. After receiving an application number, supporting documents can be submitted to FEMA by:
- Uploading documents to your DisasterAssistance.gov account
- Faxing documents to 855-261-3452
- Mailing documents: P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782
Applicants may receive assistance for the funeral expenses of multiple deceased individuals. Aid is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or the District of Columbia. More details on eligibility, appeals, and other questions are available on FEMA’s official website.
Survivors: Beware of Scammers
Unscrupulous scammers know no boundaries when it comes to preying on others. They have already started to target grieving survivors by impersonating government agencies, offering to help pay for COVID-19 related expenses. The con artists offer assistance for a fee and are only out to steal your money and identity. You should be aware that FEMA will not contact you to offer assistance until you have called FEMA first or applied for assistance. If you are contacted by phone, email, text, or social media unsolicited, it’s a scam. Also, the government will not ask you to pay anything to obtain this financial aid. Do not give your own or the deceased individual’s personal or financial information to anyone contacting you out of the blue.
Report fraud or suspected fraudulent activity to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. You can also file complaints with your local law enforcement agencies and Business Consumer Alliance and the Federal Trade Commission.