Funeral Assistance Program: Alleviating the Financial Burden of COVID-19

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FEMA has taken action to help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus. They are providing financial assistance for pandemic-related funeral expenses up to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral.

The following information has been provided by FEMA.gov.  

Acknowledging the overwhelming grief COVID-19 has brought to so many families, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has taken action to help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus.

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA is providing financial assistance for pandemic-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. Applicants may receive assistance for multiple deceased individuals. Assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or the District of Columbia. As of this time, there is no application deadline.

To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:

  • 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 attributed to COVID-19.
  • 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.

The following are not eligible to apply:

  • A minor child cannot apply on behalf of an adult who is not a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
  • There are several categories of aliens lawfully present in the U.S. who are not eligible for FEMA’s Individual and Households Program assistance, including funeral assistance. These include, but are not limited to:
    • Temporary tourist visa holders
    • Foreign students
    • Temporary work visa holders
    • Habitual residents, such as citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

The application process

You will need to call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line (844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585), which is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm Eastern time. No online applications will be accepted. Multilingual services are available.

You should expect the call to take about 20 minutes. Prior to calling you should gather the necessary documentation:

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia
  • Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that include the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates of the funeral expenses
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. (FEMA will not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance or financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources)

Once you have applied and are given an application number, you may provide supporting documentation to FEMA in a few ways:

What expenses are covered?
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Any receipts received for expenses that are not related to funeral services will not be determined eligible expenses. 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

How will I receive funds if I am approved?
If you are eligible for funeral assistance, you will receive a check by mail or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you choose when you apply for assistance.

What if my application is not approved?
You have 60 days from the date of the decision letter to upload, fax, or mail a signed letter appealing FEMA’s decision.

Beware of scammers
FEMA has received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral expense assistance. FEMA will not contact you until you apply for assistance. If you think you have been contacted by someone claiming to be a federal employee or from FEMA and you are skeptical, report the contact to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. You can also make a complaint to local law enforcement agencies.

If you need additional information
Get answers to frequently asked questions about the application process on FEMA’s Funeral Assistance FAQ page.

If you need help coping with the effects of COVID-19
FEMA knows that “the COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families.” You can call or text their Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 for immediate help and support.

The American Red Cross is operating a Virtual Family Assistance Center to provide comfort, support, information, and resource referrals for families that have lost loved ones to COVID-19. All support will be provided virtually and is completely confidential. Call 833-492-0094 or visit the Virtual Family Assistance Center website.