FEMA to take applications for COVID-19 funeral cost reimbursements next week

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 9:55 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Families of the nearly 19,000 victims of COVID-19 in Ohio can start applying next week to get their funeral costs reimbursed by the federal government.

FEMA launches its COVID-19 funeral assistance call center Monday, April 12. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. Online applications will not be accepted.

The phone number is 844-684-6333.

The federal agency is budgeting $2 billion for the program with money from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Funeral services haven’t looked the same since the pandemic hit. Jim Raczskowski is the funeral director in charge of the Newcomer Funeral Home on Heatherdowns in Toledo. Families of COVID-19 victims in particular have had a difficult year.

“They’re having to change the way that they’re remembering their loved ones,” Raczskowski said.

He called the financial help that’s on the way a “huge relief for families.” It came as a relief to his family, too. He said his family lost a loved one to COVID-19 in December. He’s now working with his cousins to help them prepare for the application process.

“Obviously, (families) are not expecting COVID to be a manner of their loved ones passing,” Raczskowski said. “They’re caught off guard. They’re planning funerals they wouldn’t hope to do for years to come.”

That relief maxes out at $9,000 per funeral and $35,000 per applicant if they were responsible for multiple funerals.

FEMA says not everyone will receive the maximum amount.

The actual dollar amount will depend on “their unmet needs (the remaining dollar amount based on the cost of the eligible expenses they incurred or will incur minus any insurance or assistance from other sources, up to the maximum award amount for Funeral Assistance set by the state),” FEMA says.

Families will have to have a copy of the death certificate and proof of funeral expenses (i.e. receipts) on standby.

“The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by, “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms,” according to FEMA. “Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution”

The death also had to happen in the U.S. The applicant has to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or a qualified alien who paid for funeral expenses after January 20, 2020. But the person who died does not have to be a U.S. citizen.

A full list of eligible expenses can be found by clicking here. It includes caskets, headstones, internment, funeral services and cremation. It does not include things like obituaries, flowers, or transportation costs.

FEMA recommends gathering the following information before calling as it makes final preparations to open the application process:

  • Social Security number for the applicant and the deceased individual
  • Date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual
  • Current mailing address for the applicant
  • Current telephone number for the applicant
  • Location or address where the deceased individual passed away
  • Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
  • Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations
  • CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
  • Routing and account number of the applicant’s checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested)

If you’re eligible, FEMA says the money will either get sent by a check in the mail or by direct deposit.

More information is available on the agency’s website.

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