Did you know you can get help with COVID-related funeral expenses? Here’s how

The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Fund has money to help cover costs of COVID-related funerals in the U.S. into the foreseeable future.

And while COVID-19 has claimed nearly 865,000 lives in the U.S., only an estimated 300,000 families have filed for reimbursement, according to an advocate who believes people don’t know about the fund.

“This has been available to Americans for over a year. And it goes retroactive to all the way to January 2020 for any family who has lost a loved one in some way attributed to COVID,” said Ed Michael Reggie, CEO of Funeralocity.com.

Everyone is eligible to be reimbursed up to $9,000 in funeral costs. Even applicants who used life insurance to cover funeral expenses may receive assistance.

“Considering the average burial in America costs only $7,700 and the average cremation cost $4,500, this is a very rich benefit,” Reggie said.

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

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. (At this time, there’s no deadline to apply.)

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.

“The thing is, people need to get on it and get this done,” Reggie said. “The longer you wait, the less information you’ll be able to collect in an easy fashion. Everything’s at hand right now, hopefully, because the person didn’t die that long ago; but I would get this done and get that up to $9,000 back into the family finances.”

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 time.

There are answers to frequently asked questions about the program on the FEMA website.

See a video about the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Fund below.

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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