FEMA covers COVID-death funeral costs — here’s how to apply

The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Fund has money to help pay the funeral costs of people who died in the U.S. from the coronavirus.

COVID-19 has claimed more than 600,000 lives in the U.S., and fewer than 250,000 people have applied for funeral assistance. Ed Michael Reggie, CEO of Funeralocity.com, thinks it’s because people aren’t aware the fund exists.

“This is not income-based at all,” he said.

Everyone is eligible to receive up to $9,000, Reggie said, adding that the average American funeral costs $7,700. Even applicants who used life insurance to pay for funeral expenses may receive assistance.

“It’s not hard at all to qualify,” Reggie said. The trick is collecting the correct information after determining eligibility. You may qualify if you’re a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.

Applications to the fund — which is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency — are first considered only by phone. Callers will be connected with a representative to walk them through the entire process.

“People should do their homework first,” Reggie said. “Because if you’ve gotten through a long call queue, you don’t want to have to call back.”

Information that should be gathered first, and issues to be aware of, include:

  • When a death certificate doesn’t list cause of death as COVID-19, a doctor’s note from an attending physician will be needed.
  • The funeral receipt should include the name of the person applying for reimbursement.
  • Social Security numbers of both the applicant and decedent are needed.
  • Household income will be requested but is not a determining factor.

Reggie emphasized that applicants need to reach out to the program. Calls or outreach claiming to be recruiting potential applicants are scammers gathering information for identity theft.

Once people have applied and received a FEMA application number, they can submit required documentation online at DisasterAssistance.gov, by fax to 855-261-3452, or by mail to P.O. Box 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782.

The COVID-19 funeral assistance helpline is at 844-684-6333 (TTY 800-462-7585). It operates Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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