COVID-19 is an unprecedented global pandemic that has impacted all aspects of normal life. To defray expenses for those hit the hardest by COVID-19, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is reimbursing funeral expenses for deaths attributable to COVID-19. Applicants may receive up to $9,000 per deceased individual, and may receive up to $35,500 in cases where funeral expenses were incurred for multiple deceased individuals in a single state or territory. This program is part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Expenses that may be reimbursed by the program include:
- Funeral services
- 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
- Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates; or
- Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinance
Despite the broad list of covered expenses, FEMA will not provide financial that duplicates any pre-death source of funding designated specifically to pay for funeral expenses, such as:
- Burial or funeral insurance
- Pre-planned or pre-paid funeral contracts
- Pre-paid trust for funeral expenses
- Irrevocable trusts for Medicaid
- Voluntary organizations, government programs, and agencies; or
- Any other sources specifically designated for funeral expenses
Thus, any granted FEMA financial assistance for eligible expenses will be reduced by the amount of duplicative assistance received for the same expenses that were pre-paid and pre-planned before the COVID-19 death. However, life insurance proceeds, death gratuities, or other forms of assistance not specifically intended to defray funeral costs will not reduce FEMA’s financial assistance, as these are not considered to be an impermissible duplication of benefits. Further, if your funeral expenses exceeded the pre-paid funding intended to pay these costs, FEMA may evaluate your receipts and other documentation to reimburse you for any eligible costs not actually paid by duplicative funds. For example, if you incur expenses for a $10,000 funeral where the funeral or burial insurance only covered $8,000, you may be eligible for $2,000 of assistance.
Requirements for eligibility:
- Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien
- Expenses must have been incurred after January 20, 2020
- Death must have occurred in the United States, U.S. Territories, or District of Columbia; and
- Death must be attributable to COVID-19:
- A death certificate issued May 17, 2020 or later must attribute the death to COVID-19 or COVID-19 like symptoms.
- A death certificate issued from January 20, 2020 to May 16, 2020 is not required to attribute the cause of death to COVID-19 if you obtain and submit a signed statement from the original certifier of the death, or the local medical examiner or coroner, attributing the death to COVID-19.
- To amend a death certificate, you must contact the individual who certified the death. This may be a physician, local coroner, or local medical examiner. You may provide them with evidence supporting your claim the death was attributable to COVID-19.
A minor child who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien may apply for assistance. However, minor children applying on behalf of an adult who is not a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien are not eligible for assistance. States, tribes, territories, businesses, organizations, and other entities, such as funeral homes, may not apply or apply on an applicant’s behalf. An applicant is not eligible if applicant is a temporary tourist visa holder, foreign student, or temporary work visa holder, or citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. FEMA does not consider household income when determining eligibility.
How to apply:
- Gather documents and information:
- Certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate,
- Decedent’s date of birth, social security number, and location of death;
- Applicant’s date of birth and social security number
- Applicant’s telephone number, and mailing address;
- Proof of funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020, such as receipts, funeral home contract, itemized funeral expenses, etc.
- Proof of any other funeral assistance received from any other sources, such as burial or funeral insurance policies, donations, CARES Act grants, and assistance from voluntary organizations.
- Applicant’s routing and account number of checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested).
- Call 844-684-6333 or 800-462-7585, Monday-Friday, 9 am-9 pm EST to receive your application. If more than one person helped pay for a funeral, they must register with FEMA together under the same application.
- Submit all required documentation. You can upload it to your DisasterAssistance.gov account, fax it to 855-261-3452, or mail it to P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782.
It may take up to 14 days for the materials to appear in your case file. If your application is granted, you will receive a check by mail, or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you chose when you applied for assistance. If your application is denied, you may file an appeal within 60 days from the date of the decision letter denying your application.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impose hardships on people across the nation and world, various programs and financial assistance are available for qualifying individuals. To avoid costly mistakes and protect your assets for generations to come, it is important to discuss your trust and estate planning strategies with a qualified attorney. At Shutts & Bowen LLP, we help our clients to do what's best for themselves, their families and their intended beneficiaries.
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