Guest Editorial: Help for families for COVID-19 related funeral expenses

COVID-19 has killed more than 545,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The pandemic has caused immense grief for so many American families.

In addition to losing a loved one, many families have had to bear the financial burden of funeral and burial expenses.

Although nothing can change what happened, financial help is on the way.

FEMA said it hopes to “help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the pandemic.”

If you have a loved one who died from COVID-19, funeral assistance could be available to you from the government.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday that it will reimburse families for funeral expenses of loved ones who died last year from COVID-19.

The agency said, beginning in April, it would pay up to $9,000 in expenses for individual funerals and that Americans who lost multiple family members can apply for up to $35,000.

FEMA has set aside $2 billion to reimburse “individuals and households” for funeral expenses between Jan. 20 and Dec. 31, 2020.

The money was allocated in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.

The agency said it is establishing a hotline and full-scale call center for individuals in the coming weeks, but encouraged Americans looking to apply to gather documents like death certificates, receipts and expense documents and documentation of funds from other sources.

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 Jan. 20, 2020.

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

How to apply

In April, FEMA will begin accepting applications. If you had COVID-19 funeral expenses, we encourage you to keep and gather documentation. Types of information should include:

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 the funeral expenses occurred.

Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA won’t duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, or financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources.

The agency usually provides funding for funeral expenses related to natural disasters, but the more than 500,000 American lives lost to the pandemic greatly outnumber the death toll in other disasters.

For more information about the program, visit https://www.fema.gov/.

Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune

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