If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, you may be eligible for help with funeral and burial expenses from the federal government. On April 12, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched its COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.
FEMA will pay up to $9,000 to cover eligible funeral planning and burial costs for a U.S. citizen who died from COVID-19. It is the largest payment assistance program for funeral and burial costs offered by the government.
The program was spearheaded by New York democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as the pandemic ran rampant through their state and country. To date, more than 560,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. Two economic relief packages approved by Congress provided $52 billion to FEMA for COVID-19 related costs.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families,” states the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance website. “At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus.”
According to the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program website, expenses for funeral services, burial or cremation will be covered. Eligible expenses include:
- Casket or urn
- Headstone or marker
- Transfer of remains
- Burial plot or cremation niche
- Clergy services
- Use of funeral home
If an applicant received financial assistance from other sources that helped defray the funeral costs, FEMA will reduce its reimbursement accordingly. The funeral expenses must be for an individual who died from COVID-19 in the United States, U.S. territories or District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.). The decedent does not have to be a U.S. citizen.
What's Not Covered?
Prepaid funerals, burial insurances, an Irrevocable Trust for Medicare, and a pre-paid Trust for funeral expenses cannot be reimbursed under the FEMA program. Life insurance benefits are exempt. The FEMA Funeral Assistance is not available for U.S. citizens who died outside the country.
Who Can Apply for FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program?
A U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who paid for funeral expenses after January 20, 2020 are eligible to apply. Those approved for the assistance have the option of receiving payments by check or direct deposit.
An individual who paid for multiple funerals may be reimbursed up to $9,000 per funeral with a maximum of $35,500 per applicant, state, U.S. territory and District of Columbia.
It is important to note that FEMA will generally only provide COVID-19 Funeral Assistance to one applicant per deceased individual. Therefore, the applicant’s name must be shown as the responsible party on all receipts. In cases where multiple individuals may have contributed to funeral expenses, they must apply for reimbursement on the same application as the applicant.
Who Cannot Apply?
Non-U.S. citizens, minors, temporary tourist and worker visa holders, and foreign students are not eligible to apply. Funeral homes cannot apply on behalf of a family. Businesses cannot apply for assistance; the applicant must be an individual who incurred the expenses.
What Documentation is Needed?
The applicant who paid for the funeral must provide documentation showing they are the responsible person. A copy of the decedent’s death certificate indicating COVID-19 “was likely” or “may have been” the cause of death, proof of funeral expenses paid after Jan. 20, 2021, burial and funeral insurance information, and any financial assistance from other sources are among the documents required to be submitted.
How To Apply:
No online applications are being accepted. Applicants must call the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance line at 1-844-684-6333, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Time. The registration process should take about 20 minutes. There is no deadline to apply. Supporting documents can be uploaded, faxed, or mailed.
FEMA will not contact anyone unless they have called the agency to apply for assistance. Officials warn against responding to unsolicited calls from anyone claiming to be from FEMA offering help to register for the program and asking for social security numbers, names, and other personal information.