FEMA to assist with expenses for COVID-related deaths

COVID-19-related funeral expenses will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but strict rules and regulations will be in place.

Executive Director of the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association Sidney Fogle said the last time FEMA reimbursed families for funeral expenses was in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was the cause of so much destruction and many deaths. This is the first time in his recollection that FEMA has helped with funeral costs in Kentucky.

He said he wasn’t surprised when the agency announced several months ago that it would help with funeral expenses. And now steps are in place where families can request reimbursements through a phone call, he said.

“It is a good thing that’s going to help some people who were adversely affected by the pandemic,” Fogle said.

A family can be reimbursed up to $9,000 for the funeral of a family member who died of COVID-19-related issues beginning Jan. 20, 2020, Fogle explained.

Families can also apply for reimbursement of funeral-related expenses that were not fully covered with an insurance policy, he said. For example, if a person had purchased a small pre-need insurance policy through a funeral home for $5,000, but the total bill funeral home bill was $9,000, the family can apply for $4,000 in out-of-pocket money they spent, Fogle said. The reimbursement will go directly to the families, not the funeral homes, he added.

FEMA funeral expense reimbursement is not “needs based,” he said.

Folge said beginning April 1, FEMA will release a phone number where families can call to register for their own web account where they will upload the required documentation for reimbursement. He stressed that the families have to apply, not the funeral homes.

Last week, Mary Hamlin, Sarah Hamlin and Ann Yager Hamlin McCrosky, owners of Stith Funeral Home, attended an hour-long webinar hosted by the National Funeral Directors Association explaining how the FEMA application process will work. But FEMA still had final details to work out and post, McCrosky said.

She said they’ve known about the FEMA reimbursement for several months, and have been “getting ready on our end,” for about a month, McCrosky said.

“I fill out paperwork all the time,” for families whose loved ones have died, McCrosky said. “I feel like that’s my job.” So gathering all of the paperwork they already have on file for the families who qualify for reimbursement, is just part of her job, she added.

They’ve also found that at least two people who they believe died of COVID-related issues, didn’t have COVID-19 listed as a cause of death. Those two death certificates will have to be amended if the families want to apply for assistance, McCrosky said.

“I had a lot of families who were put in a hard spot,” when they had to pay for unexpected funeral expenses due to the pandemic,” she said. So gathering and organizing the paperwork they need to apply for FEMA reimbursement is important. “I’ll do anything I can to help my families.”

However, if families have their own files and records relating to funeral expenses, they don’t have to contact the funeral home in charge of the arrangements for the records, she added.

According to FEMA’s website, “Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA will provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.” Applications will be accepted for funeral expenses reimbursements beginning April 1.

For more information go to: https://bit.ly/3m6yWyX

To be eligible for funeral assistance:

• The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.

• The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by, “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution.

• The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.

• There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will help only with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Any receipts received for expenses that are not related to funeral services will not be eligible for reimbursement. Expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation typically include, but are not limited to:

• Transportation for up to two individuals 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 interment costs

• Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates

• Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances

The applicant responsible for COVID-19 funeral expenses will need to provide the following information below when they call FEMA to register for assistance. It is recommend that applicants gather this information before applying.

• Social Security number for the applicant and the deceased individual.

• Date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual.

• Current mailing address for the applicant.

• Current telephone number for the applicant.

• Location or address where the deceased individual passed away.

• Information about burial or funeral insurance policies.

• Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations.

• CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations.

• Routing and account number of the applicant’s checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested).

• You must provide a copy of the death certificate, proof of funeral expenses incurred, and proof of assistance received from any other source.

Documentation for expenses (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) must include the applicant’s name as the person responsible for the expense, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and that funeral expenses were incurred after January 20, 2020.

The applicant must also provide FEMA with proof of funds received from other sources specifically used for funeral costs. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance may not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance or financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government programs or agencies, or other sources. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will be reduced by the amount of other assistance the applicant received for the same expenses.

Life insurance proceeds are not considered a duplication of Funeral Assistance benefits.

If the death certificate doesn’t attribute the death to COVID-19 it can be amended. This process starts with contacting the person who certified the death. This may be a treating doctor, a coroner or a medical examiner, and their name and address is on the death certificate. Applicants may present evidence to them to support the claim the death was attributable to COVID-19.