If you lost a loved one to COVID-19 and paid out of pocket for their funeral, you could get a reimbursement of up to $9,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA’s Funeral Assistance Fund, which is designed to help recoup the cost of a funeral during the pandemic, opened its applications Monday.
Anyone who paid for a COVID-19 victim’s funeral after Jan. 20, 2020, can apply for reimbursement over the phone by calling 844-684-6333 or 800-462-7585 between 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST. According to local FEMA director Nick Crossley, the agency has a fully staffed 5,000-phone call center ready to answer when applicants call.
Funerals covered by the fund are those held for patients who died in the United States after Jan. 20, 2020, and have a death certificate confirming their death was attributed to COVID-19.
Surviving applicants should have a death certificate confirming the patient’s cause of death, receipts showing the cost of the funeral and proof of any funds received from other sources, including funeral insurance.
Families who couldn't afford to have a funeral for their loved one at the time of death remain eligible for funeral funds through the program, Crossley added.
“You can ask that before you apply and say, ‘We didn’t have a funeral then but we want to have a funeral now — we weren’t allowed to have one by the government' and ask them if they will still reimburse those costs," he said.
Theresa Correa, managing funeral director at Spring Grove Funeral Home in Spring Grove Village, said she met many families stricken by COVID-19 deaths during 2020. Their already unimaginable losses were magnified by the demands of social distancing, which kept many out of their loved ones' hospital rooms and forced them to eschew traditional mourning. No hugs from outside their bubbles; no crowds of friends and family at funerals.
"They weren't able to be present or even hold their hand at the time of their death," Correa said. "That alone breaks your heart, and then fast forward to having to plan a funeral and say goodbye in some ways where it was restricted. In some cases, we had services and funerals where family weren’t able to be present."
She and her staff did their best to make accommodations, including livestreaming services and carefully counting the number of people who came for visitations.
Still, “the word I heard most from families and even from our staff is that they felt cheated," said Spring Grove Cemetery president Gary Freytag. "From our staff's perspective, they wanted to be able to say yes, and from the families' perspective, they really felt like they weren’t able to say goodbye the way they wanted to."