I lost my 78-year-old parent to COVID-19 in 2021 and want to find out if I am still eligible for the government funeral assistance program. What can you tell me about this?
The government program you are referring to is the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This program is part of the American Rescue Plan, a stimulus package passed in 2021 in an effort to help the country financially manage amid the pandemic.
This program, which currently has no termination date, offers up to $9,000 to cover the cost of a funeral for someone who passed away due to COVID-19 as far back as January 2020.
Unfortunately, less than half the people believed to be eligible for funeral assistance have actually applied for it. Here is what you should know about the program's requirements and how to apply.
Where to Start?
To apply for COVID-19 funeral assistance, you must call FEMA at 844-684-6333, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time. The application process takes about 20 minutes.
After you apply, FEMA will provide you an application number, which you may use to create an online account at DisasterAssistance.gov.
You will then need to submit supporting documents, including a death certificate for your parent, but it must state that the death "may have been caused by" or "was likely the result of" COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. The death must also have occurred in the U.S. on or after Jan. 20, 2020.
If you do not have this, you will not be eligible for funeral assistance.
You will also need to submit proof of funeral expenses, such as itemized receipts, invoices or funeral home contracts.
These supporting documents can be submitted either online (through your DisasterAssistance.gov account), by mail (P.O. Box 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782) or via fax (855-261-3452).
After the paperwork is received, it takes FEMA approximately 45 days to make an eligibility decision.
Families who had multiple deaths due to COVID-19 can also apply. One family can receive up to $35,000 across multiple funerals.
Reimbursements can be used to cover any portion of funeral expenses including burial plots, caskets, preparation of the body, cremation, urns, clergy, services and headstones as well as costs related to state or local ordinances and producing death certificates.
Please be aware that pre-paid funerals are not eligible for reimbursements. Any payment made specifically for a funeral prior to death is considered a duplication and is not eligible.
If FEMA approves your application, the funds will either be deposited into your bank account or sent by mail via check, usually within a few days of approval.
If, however, you receive a letter from FEMA saying you are ineligible, or if the amount awarded is not enough, you have the right to appeal within 60 days of FEMA's decision letter.
For more information on the COVID Funeral Assistance program, visit FEMA.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.