FEMA offers funds for COVID-19 funeral expenses
Help is still available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover funeral expenses for those who lost loved ones to COVID-19.
FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance application opened to the general public in April to provide financial assistance for funeral expenses incurred since Jan. 20, 2020.
According to the president’s office, the funding was available in April through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“I know this is a touchy subject, but we want you to be informed and that way you can get some relief back during these trying times,” President Jonathan Nez said during a live town hall on Monday.
“We know a lot of families are in a tough financial situation for so many reasons as a result of the pandemic,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the over 1,300 families who have been directly impacted by the loss of a family member because of COVID-19.”
With FEMA’s assistance, families who incurred expenses for COVID-19 funerals, burials or cremation expenses can apply for financial reimbursement.
“Our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters,” said FEMA Region 9 Administrator Robert Fenton. “We have been with the Navajo Nation responding to COVID since March of last year. Although we cannot change the outcomes of what has happened, we are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress created by this pandemic.”
To be eligible for funeral assistance through FEMA, applicants must provide documentation that the death occurred in the United States, which includes the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, and the death certificate must indicate it was directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19.
Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien but there is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
It is important to gather all necessary information and documentation before applying for assistance to help FEMA to process the application in a timely manner.
Applicants who have had COVID-19 funeral expenses should be able to provide an official death certificate, dated funeral expense receipts that include the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of each expense.
Eligible expenses may include costs related 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, funeral ceremony, use of funeral home equipment or staff, cremation or burial costs, certifying death certificates, and expenses incurred due to local, tribal or state government laws or ordinances.
If more than one individual contributed toward funeral expenses, they must register as a co-applicant with FEMA under the same application as the applicant. Only one co-applicant can be included on an application.
Funeral homes cannot apply on behalf of a family or to be a co-applicant on the Funeral Assistance application. The person applying must be an individual, not a business, who incurred the funeral expenses.
Proof of funds received from other sources for use toward funeral costs must also be provided as FEMA cannot duplicate benefits received from other burial assistance, funeral insurance, or financial assistance received from government agencies or other sources.
For example, if an applicant has already received burial assistance from the Navajo Nation government, they are ineligible for the FEMA reimbursement.
To apply over the phone, applicants must call FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line at 844-684-6333, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (MDT). Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have speech disabilities should call 800-462-7585.
According to the FEMA website, it should take about 20 minutes to apply. There is no online application available.
Fenton said Navajo language interpreters will be available, as needed.
Once individuals have applied over the phone and are given an application number, they can provide supporting documentation to FEMA by fax, mail, or by uploading it to DisasterAssistance.gov account.
At this time, there is no deadline to apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance and a funding cap has not yet been established since the pandemic is still ongoing.
“We have many families who are in need of this type of support here on the Navajo Nation,” said Vice President Myron Lizer. “We encourage everyone to carefully read about the eligibility and requirements, to gather their documentation, and submit in accordance with the FEMA guidelines.”