by Jim Miller
Save dear High: I recently saw a news segment on TV about a state funeral assistance program available to families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic. What can you tell me about this? I lost my 78-year-old mother to COVID in 2021 and I want to know if I still qualify for any funeral money, and if so, what I need to do to get it.
Dear sad: I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. The government program you’re asking about is the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (or FEMA). This program is part of the US bailout, a stimulus package passed in 2021 in an effort to help the country manage its finances amid the pandemic.
This program, which has no end date, offers up to $9,000 toward the funeral cost of someone who has died from COVID-19 since January 2020.
Unfortunately, less than half of the people who believe they qualify for funeral aid have actually applied for it. Here’s what you should know about the program requirements and how to apply.
where do I start?
To apply for COVID-19 funeral assistance, you must do so over the phone by calling FEMA at 844-684-6333, any time Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. The application process takes approximately 20 minutes.
After you apply, FEMA will provide you with an application number, which you can use to create an online account at DisasterAssistance.gov if you choose.
You will then need to provide supporting documents, including your mother’s death certificate, but must state that her death “may have been caused by” or “likely to be the result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Her death must have also occurred in the United States on or after January 20, 2020.
If you do not have this, you will not qualify.
You will also need to provide proof of funeral expenses, such as receipts, itemized bills, or funeral contracts.
These supporting documents can be submitted either online (through your DisasterAssistance.gov account), by mail (PO Box 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782), or by fax (855-261-3452).
After the paperwork is received, it takes about 45 days for FEMA to make an eligibility determination.
Families that have caused multiple deaths from the coronavirus can also apply. One family can receive up to $35,000 across multiple funerals.
Refunds may be used to cover any portion of funeral expenses including burial plots, caskets, body preparation, cremation, urns, clergy, services and gravestones, as well as costs related to state or local ordinances and the issuance of death certificates.
But know that prepaid funerals do not qualify for compensation. Any payment made specifically for a funeral antemortem is considered a redundancy and ineligible.
If FEMA approves your application, the money will either be deposited into your bank account or mailed via a check, usually within a few days of approval.
However, if you receive a letter from FEMA stating that you are ineligible, or if the amount awarded is insufficient, you have the right to appeal within 60 days of FEMA’s decision letter.
For more information about the COVID Funeral Assistance Program, visit FEMA.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.
Send your questions to: Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070 or visit SavvySraduate.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”