The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday said it will provide up to $9,000 per funeral, with people who lost multiple family members to COVID-19 eligible to apply for up to $35,000. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS

Families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 last year will soon be able to apply for reimbursement of their funeral costs through a new federal assistance program.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday said it will provide up to $9,000 per funeral, with people who lost multiple family members to COVID-19 eligible to apply for up to $35,000.

The funds can help cover funeral services, including interment and cremation, that occurred between Jan. 20, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020. Program applications are expected to become available in early April.

“At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton in a news release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”

The program is part of the $900 billion relief bill passed by Congress in December, which set aside $2 billion for FEMA to reimburse funeral expenses for COVID-19 related deaths between Jan. 20, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020. According to the mandate, the government should cover 100% of the funeral costs, CBS News reports.

Here’s what to know

n Anyone who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or “qualified alien” who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020, for a death that may have been caused by or was likely the result of COVID-19 is eligible to apply for FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral expenses program. FEMA says “qualified aliens” includes anyone with lawful permanent residence, such as a green card holder.

FEMA says there is no requirement for the person who died to have been a U.S. citizen. However, the death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Their death certificate must indicate it was attributed to COVID-19 (more on this later).

n FEMA says you can make more than one application for assistance if you paid for more than one funeral. Remember, while FEMA may pay up to $9,000 per funeral, the maximum total an applicant may receive is $35,000.

n FEMA says it will generally only provide aid to one applicant per COVID-19 death who can show they were responsible for funeral expenses. However, sometimes more than one person pays for funeral services.

If you’re in this situation, FEMA says you should register under the same application as “applicant and “co-applicant.” If you don’t, only the first person who submits all required documentation will be eligible for assistance. No more than one “co-applicant” can be included in the application.

What the program covers

The program reimburses costs related to funeral expenses. This includes but is not limited to:

n Transportation for up to two people to identify the deceased

n Transfer of remains

n Casket or urn

n Burial plot or cremation niche

n Marker or headstone

n Clergy or officiant services and arrangement of the funeral ceremony

n Use of funeral home equipment or staff

n Cremation or interment costs

what you need to apply

Some of the information applicants need to provide include their date of birth, Social Security number, address and phone number. For direct deposit, you will also need to provide your routing and account number.

Applicants will also need to provide the date of birth and Social Security number of the person who died and the address of where they died. Proof you’ll need to show includes:

n An official death certificate that attributes the death to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States. FEMA says the certificate must indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely the result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. “Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution,” FEMA said.

n Funeral expense documents, such as receipts and a funeral home contract. These documents should include the applicant’s name, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses and the dates in which the costs occurred.

n Proof of funds received from other sources specifically used for funeral costs. FEMA’s funeral assistance will not reimburse costs that were already covered by other aid, including burial or funeral insurance, donations, or financial assistance received from other agencies, organizations or government programs.

How to apply and Deadline

You’ll apply by phone and once you receive an application number, you’ll upload the required documents online at DisasterAssistance.gov. You’ll also have the option of faxing or mailing the documents.

FEMA is still in the process of setting up the toll-free phone number you will need to call. The agency expects it will be available in April. The program also doesn’t have a deadline set up yet, though this may change.

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