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Underutilized Federal Program Provides Financial Aid Covering Funeral Costs for COVID-19-Related Deaths

Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? Has the costly burden of arranging and paying for their funeral fallen on your shoulders? Help may be out there.

One of the seemingly lesser-known benefits of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Action of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “Acts”) is a program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to provide financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses. So how does it work?

Eligibility

There are two categories of eligible deaths as they relate to this program. In both, you must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or a qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses. First, for deaths occurring from January 20, 2020, to May 16, 2020, either (1) the death certificate must indicate the death was attributed COVID-19 or (2) the death certificate must be accompanied by a signed statement provided by the original certifier of the death certificate or the local medical examiner or coroner and must indicate that COVID-19 was a cause or contributing factor in the death. Second, for deaths occurring after May 16, 2020, the death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19.

Benefits

Under the Acts, an individual is eligible for maximum relief of $9,000.00 per deceased individual and a maximum of $35,500 per application if the applicant incurred funeral expenses for multiple decedents. The following are some, but not all of the expenses covered:

  • Funeral services
  • Cremation
  • Internment
  • Casket or urn
  • Burial plot
  • Marker or headstone
  • Clergy
  • Costs of producing and certifying multiple death certificates

For a complete list, see the related FEMA FAQ’s here: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq#policy-change

How to Apply

The only way to apply for the program is to call FEMA, which indicates it should take only 20 minutes to apply. The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline can be reached at (844) 684-6333 Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. When you call, you will be assigned a FEMA application number, and you can then submit your documentation online, by fax, or by mail.

For more information, you can check out the FEMA flyer on the program here: https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_funeral-assistance-flier_102021.pdf and you can visit the program website at: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance

If you have any questions about this program or need any assistance in administering the estate of a loved one, contact your attorney at Carlile Patchen & Murphy or any member of the Family Wealth and Estate Planning Group.

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