Have you lost a loved one to COVID? You can get help with funeral costs from FEMA

Natalie Wallington
Kansas City Star

Kansas City, Mo. — With COVID-19 case numbers and death counts surging, many are facing a heartbreaking situation: the death of a loved one from COVID-19. If you have paid for a funeral in the last two years of someone who died from COVID-19, you may be able to get reimbursed for some of the costs. 

“I believe it was one day about a week or so ago, we got 10 death calls in one day,” said Duane Harvey, assistant general manager of Lawrence A. Jones & Sons Funeral Chapels in Kansas City. “Eight of the 10 was COVID.” 

FEMA is a federal disaster recovery agency that has a dedicated COVID-19 funeral assistance program. Here’s how to apply for a reimbursement. 

How do I apply for FEMA funeral assistance? 

The only way to start an application is over the phone. Call 844-684-6333 to apply. Multilingual services are available, and the conversation should take around 20 minutes. If you qualify, you’ll then need to upload the following documents into an online account or mail them to FEMA directly: 

FEMA offers assistance to pay for funerals due to COVID-19.

1. The death certificate of the person who died 

2. Itemized receipts and contracts for the funeral expenses that include the deceased person’s name and list your name as the person responsible for paying the costs 

3. Any documentation of money that was pre-designated to help cover the costs of the funeral. Life insurance doesn’t count for this because it isn’t specifically intended to cover funeral costs. 

You can read more about the application process on FEMA’s website before you make the call. 

Who can apply for FEMA funeral assistance?

Anyone in the U.S. except for people on temporary visas can apply for FEMA assistance for a funeral of someone who died from COVID-19. You don’t have to be related to the person who died, but you have to be able to prove that you paid their funeral expenses. This means gathering all the receipts, funeral home contracts and other documents to show how much you paid. 

If lots of people split the cost of a funeral, one person should apply and provide everyone’s receipts. You can list one co-applicant on your application. If you have paid for multiple funerals of people who died from COVID-19, you can apply for assistance money for all of them. Your household income won’t prevent you from qualifying for assistance. 

What type of FEMA funeral assistance is available?

FEMA will provide up to $9,000 per funeral in reimbursement checks or direct deposit. There’s a limit of $35,000 per application if you paid for many funerals. This money can only be distributed to individual people, not to funeral homes, religious institutions, businesses or other groups. 

What funerals are eligible for FEMA reimbursement? 

In order for a funeral to be eligible, the deceased person must have a death certificate stating that COVID-19 was the cause of death or a significant factor in their death. They must have died in the U.S. in the time since Jan. 20, 2020.

Exception: If the person died between Jan. 20 and May 16 of 2020, their death certificate may be accompanied by a signed letter saying that their death was likely caused by COVID-19, even if that’s not the official cause of death listed. This letter needs to come from the official who certified the death certificate, the local medical examiner or the local coroner in the place where they died. 

Prepaid funerals and funerals funded through wills or other designated funeral expenses can’t be reimbursed. However, a funeral that you paid for using the deceased person’s life insurance money can be reimbursed. 

Can a funeral home apply for assistance money on my behalf? 

No. A funeral home can help you gather the documents you need and provide you with itemized receipts for funeral costs, but you have to actually apply for the reimbursement money yourself. 

Can I apply for FEMA assistance before a funeral actually happens? 

No. FEMA assistance is intended to reimburse people for funeral costs, not to pay them up front. In order to apply, you need to provide receipts proving that you incurred the costs of the funeral. 

I have more questions about FEMA assistance.

The FEMA website has an extensive FAQ section about this program.