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Take Notice Of Important FEMA Benefit

Updated February 10, 2022.

As of January 29, 2022, there have been over 881,000 reported deaths linked to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.  Every death of a loved one is a tragedy for the family and friends of the decedent, and this tragedy is often compounded by the surprisingly high costs of the deceased person’s funeral and interment.

Thankfully, the United States, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides significant monetary help for those families grieving the loss of a loved one from COVID-19.  This benefit can be significant, in that it provides up to $9,000 per decedent to help defray or reimburse families for funeral costs actually incurred.  “Funeral costs” are broadly defined to include the costs of death certificates, funeral services (including clergy stipends), cremation, interment, purchase of burial plot and a headstone.

To be eligible, (1) the deceased person must have died within the United States after January 20, 2020; (2) the applicant (e.g., family member or friend who paid for the funeral) must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and (3) the death certificate must “attribute the death to COVID-19” either directly or indirectly.

Importantly, this benefit is limited to individuals. So that means, a funeral home cannot apply on behalf of the family, nor will FEMA reimburse a funeral home, trust or family for a pre-paid funeral arrangement previously made by the deceased person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor funeral costs covered by other government or charitable organizations.  However, if an individual incurred funeral expenses for more than one person dying of COVID-19 after January 20, 2020, he or she can be reimbursed for each decedent’s funeral expenses, up to $9,000 per decedent or a maximum total of $35,500.

As with any program, the applicant must be sure to retain good records to present to FEMA, including:
(1) the death certificate showing COVID-19 as a cause of death;
(2) funeral home / cemetery bills, receipts, or other documents showing that the person applying paid those expenses on or after January 20, 2020;
(3) proof of funds received from any other source that paid some or all of the funeral expenses (except life insurance proceeds);
(4) information on the decedent (often found on the death certificate):
(a)       social security number
(b)       date of birth
(c)       date of death
(d)       location of death; and
(5) information on the applicant
(a)       social security number
(b)       date of birth
(c)       routing number for direct deposit
(d)       mailing address and contact phone number

The FEMA application process is initiated by a telephone call to the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline, 844-684-6333, which is open 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

Some of our clients who have suffered the loss of a loved one to COVID-19 over the past year have successfully obtained these FEMA benefits.  While nothing can bring your loved one back, this program at least helps to relieve one of the biggest financial burdens a family is immediately faced with when their loved one dies.

For more information on utilizing this resource, please visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.

If you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19 during the pandemic, but are having any trouble collecting the information needed to take advantage of this FEMA program, please contact us to discuss the estate administration process.

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