By Daryl Moore
Special to the AFRO
Starting April 12, 2021, FEMA will provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses through its dedicated call center. To be eligible, the funeral expenses must have been incurred after Jan. 20, 2020 and must meet certain other requirements outlined on the website.
Welcome news to be sure. Victor March Sr., president and CEO of March Funeral Homes, explained that the average cost for a traditional funeral at a funeral home here in Maryland is about $6,000, not including cemetery costs. For a “direct cremation,” (no services – only the handling of the remains and the cremation itself), the cost is approximately $2,000. March said the national average is about $7,500 for funerals, not including cemetery costs. Direct cremations are about $3,500.
In Maryland,” March said, “our funeral homes have probably handled at least 200 to 250 Covid or Covid-related deaths in the past year.”
Brittney Greene, vice president of Operations at Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, concurred. “The numbers are significant,” she said. “We’ve done well over 100.”
In order to be qualified for funeral assistance, the death must have occurred in the United States and the death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19. Interestingly enough, while 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.
You cannot submit your application online, but you can upload your supporting documentation to your DisasterAssistance.gov account once you do apply, using the application number provided to you. You also have the option of submitting your supporting documents via fax or mail.
To apply, you must have all required documentation, beginning of course with an official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States. You will also need proof, such as funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened. Additionally, make sure you have proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs.
Please note that FEMA specifically states that it will not reimburse for benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.
Caution: Do not be fooled by scammers. FEMA has a warning on their website in big red letters advising people that FEMA will not contact you if you have not yet registered for assistance. As always, please verify you are dealing with a trusted source before you give out your important personal information.
There is a cap of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, but Greene said the amount FEMA is offering is enough to make a difference.
Both March and Greene said their respective funeral homes will be assisting their clients throughout the application process. “We’ve contacted all of the eligible families we’ve served,” Greene said, “so we can act as a liaison for them while applying for the relief. This is something we do to give back to the community as an aftercare service, and it goes beyond just our funeral homes. So many funeral homes in the area have stepped up as a community to help through this crisis. Funeral directors played an important role in comforting families during such a restrictive time and now we have a responsibility to make sure the families get this assistance. On behalf of the entire industry, we are grateful to be of service.”
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number
Applications begin on April 12, 2021
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time
For more information about funeral assistance eligibility, visit www.fema.gov/disaseters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.