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UPDATE: FEMA now offering funeral assistance for COVID-19 deaths

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 7:09 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - FEMA will soon start reimbursing families with loved ones who died from COVID-19, offering up to $9,000 for funeral reimbursement. But you may have to get in line, the agency is dealing with high call volume.

Mrs. Mollie Tompkins Witt was an educator for many years and then a counselor before she retired.

“She was just a well-rounded person in the neighborhood. Well respected and the kids that grew up in the neighborhood knew her very well,” her son Broderick Witt said.

Unfortunately earlier this year, COVID-19 took its toll on Mrs. Witt and her family. She was in the hospital battling the virus for three weeks before her family got to see her. Broderick was with his mom in those final days before she died in February at the age of 79.

“I got a chance to see her before she passed away. It affected her real bad. She went down real quick. We prayed hard and asked God to spare her life but in other words, he had other plans for her,” Witt said.

For some families, the cost of burying a loved one can be a burden in itself. That’s why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has set aside $2 billion for reimbursement for coronavirus related funeral expenses that happened after January 20th, 2020.

“It’s not going to replace your loved one, but it gives you some type of comfort to know that the country that you live in is going to provide a reimbursement of up to $9,000 for losing your loved one,” Dr. Hari Close with the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association said.

Broderick and his family are currently going through the reimbursement program. He feels it will help a little in the healing process.

“That’s good that they’re doing that for individuals that’s going through the process and I hope they have enough money to accommodate everybody,” Witt said.

The first step is to call FEMA’s funeral assistance call line at 844-684-6333. The hotline is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (eastern time) and FEMA will then walk you through the process.

We’re told that hotline was bombarded with over 1 million calls in the first 90 minutes on the day the program started earlier this month according to CNN.

FEMA says it’s not able to help people who used burial or funeral insurance or any other money from other government agencies.

Local funeral homes are now asking families to hold onto documents like death certificates and funeral bills because they could qualify for help.

Before losing his mother to COVID, Broderick went through his own battle with the virus. He has this message to the community.

“Whatever the rules and regulations are dealing with this virus, we need to do it, especially being masked up,” Witt said.

We’re told scammers are now preying on families who are looking to take part in this program by reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. FEMA says it does not contact people before they register for help.

What’s covered?

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Any receipts received for expenses that are not related to funeral services will not be determined eligible expenses. Expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation typically include, but are not limited 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
  • Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
  • Use of funeral home equipment or staff
  • Cremation or interment costs
  • Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
  • Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances

What information do I need to provide when I register?

The applicant responsible for COVID-19 funeral expenses will need to provide the following information below when they call FEMA to register for assistance. We recommend gathering this information now as we prepare 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)

You can find out more information about the funeral assistance here.

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