Starting in April, the federal government will help cover the funeral costs of families who’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says you can receive up to $9,000 to help pay for funeral costs, and up to $35,000 if you’ve paid for funerals of multiple individuals. Funeral costs must be dated after Jan. 20, 2020, in order to get reimbursed.
“At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters,” said acting FEMA administrator Bob Fenton in a recent news release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”
The program is part of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan passed in March. FEMA says it will start accepting applications in April, but the exact date has not yet been disclosed. Here’s how you can start preparing now.
To be eligible:
The death must have occurred in the U.S., which includes the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by COVID-19.
The person applying for reimbursement must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national, or “qualified alien.”
The funeral expenses must have happened after Jan. 20, 2020.
The person who died does not need to have been a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national, or qualified alien.
What funeral costs are covered?
The program covers expenses related to funeral services and interment or cremation. These include:
Transportation for up to two people to identify the deceased individual.
Transfer of remains.
Casket or urn.
Burial plot or cremation niche.
Marker or headstone.
Clergy or officiant services.
Arrangement of the funeral ceremony.
Use of funeral home equipment or staff.
Cremation or burial costs.
Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates.
Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances.
You’re allowed to apply for reimbursement for expenses of funerals for multiple people. You must provide documentation (see below) that names you as the person responsible for the costs.
The first person who submits documentation will get the reimbursement. If someone else helped you with funeral expenses, you should apply together, though an application can only include two people.
How can I apply?
You have to apply by phone. In the coming days, FEMA will provide a dedicated toll-free phone number. For updates, visit fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance. When you call, FEMA representatives will help you apply. Multilingual services and a TTY number will be available.
When you call, you’ll be asked for the following information:
Social Security number (yours and that of the deceased person).
Date of birth (yours and that of the deceased person).
Current mailing address.
Current telephone number.
Location or address where the deceased person died.
Information about burial or funeral insurance policies.
Information about any other funeral assistance you received, such as donations, CARES Act grants, or help from voluntary organizations, if applicable.
Routing and account number of your checking or savings account, if you want a direct deposit.
You’ll also need the following:
A copy of the death certificate, showing that the cause of death was — or was likely — COVID-19. That means that COVID-19 is listed as the cause of death, says that the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, or similar wording.
Proof of the funeral expenses (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.). This needs to show your name as the person responsible for the costs. It also needs to have the name of the person who died and the date the costs were acquired.
Proof of funds received from any other source used for funeral costs. FEMA won’t pay for costs if they have already been paid by another source, including insurance, donations, volunteer groups, etc. (Life insurance proceeds are OK.) If you had additional costs that weren’t covered by these, you can apply for those costs to be reimbursed.
Once you’ve applied by phone, you’ll be given an application number, and you can send all necessary documentation to FEMA by fax, mail, or online through your DisasterAssistance.gov account.
Is there a deadline to apply?
There is currently no deadline to apply, but this is likely to change. You can find the latest information on fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.
How will I get the money?
If you’re eligible, you will be given two options. You can either opt to receive a check by mail or funds by direct deposit.