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Covid-19 Funeral Assistance Program Flooded With Calls On First Day – Here’s How To Apply
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Covid-19 Funeral Assistance Program Flooded With Calls On First Day – Here’s How To Apply

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Covid-19 Funeral Assistance Program Flooded With Calls On First Day – Here’s How To Apply

The Covid-19 pandemic has tragically claimed the lives of over half a million Americans, placing the financial stress of having to put a loved one to rest on millions of families.

Most of us don’t think about the cost of death until it’s upon us—but burying and memorializing a loved one doesn’t come cheaply. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the national median cost of a funeral with viewing, burial and vault (typically required by a cemetery) in 2019, the latest data available, was $9,135. This doesn’t include the cost of monument, marker costs or cash-advance charges like flowers or an obituary. 

Now, the federal government is offering financial assistance to those who have had to pay for a funeral or end-of-life costs 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 caused by Covid-19. There’s currently no estimate of exactly how much the program will cost in total, according to the Washington Post. If families of every victim applied, at up to $9,000 each, the program would cost more than $5 billion.

The program, launched this week, didn’t get off to a smooth start. Within 90 minutes after the government posted the  assistance line number online, the call center was flooded with nearly 1 million calls, causing technical issues and jamming phone lines. FEMA hasn’t given additional guidance on when the queue will ease up, but it’s worth being patient and persistent and continuing to try to call.  

Here’s who is eligible for the funeral assistance funds and how to apply.

How to Apply for FEMA Covid-19 Funeral Assistance 

The Covid-19 funeral assistance fund is available through FEMA, the federal agency responsible for preparing and responding to national disasters. The program grants up to $9,000 per funeral with a maximum of $35,500 per application, meaning applicants can apply for more than one deceased person. There is no cost and currently no deadline to apply.

Who can apply—and qualify—for the funds is surprisingly broad. You’re required to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who paid for 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 U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien in order for the applicant to qualify for the funds. 

Expenses that qualify for the 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 will request documentation, including: 

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to Covid-19
  • Funeral expense documents that include the applicant’s name 
  • Documentation showing the deceased person’s name
  • Receipts for the amount of expenses
  • The date the funeral occurred
  • Proof of funds received from other sources for the funeral costs, such as voluntary agencies, government programs or other sources.

Applications are only possible to submit via phone (844-684-6333) to make the process faster; having to build a new online application would have taken several more months to establish. The assistance line number operates Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. 

The contracted call support center enlisted by FEMA employs 5,000 agents who are specifically trained to help individuals experiencing grief to get the support they need while they’re walked through the application steps. 

You can upload the required documentation to an applicant’s DisasterAssistance.gov account, fax them to (855-261-3452) or mail to FEMA (P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782).

If you’re approved, the funds will be sent by check or direct deposit—you can choose the option you prefer when applying. It’s unclear how long it will take successful applicants to receive their funds.

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