The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s COVID-19 funeral assistance program launched Monday. The agency will reimburse as much as $9,000 per funeral, and up to $35,500 to people who have paid for multiple funerals.
Within the first 90 minutes of launching, FEMA’s program received almost 1 million calls.
“Many families have gone through a lot this year, and that's not going to replace the grief or anything that they've suffered, but it will help them financially,” said Randy Anderson, the president of the National Funeral Directors Association.
In Berryville, Virginia, the owner of the Enders & Shirley Funeral Home estimates as many as 60 of their clients could qualify.
Those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 can’t apply online — they must call a toll-free number to complete the application.
One man, Warren Sweeney, told his daughter in January that he felt “confused.” He ended up testing positive for COVID-19 and died five days later. He was 78 years old.
“He was the definition of the dad and the husband that we all want,” his daughter Natalie Sweeney said.
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Sweeney’s family held a service for him at their home, livestreaming it for family members far away.
They’re now waiting for his tombstone to mark his final resting place.
The entire process came at a cost of $12,000. Now they can receive help.
Those who wish to call FEMA for assistance must provide an official death certificate; receipts of funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020; and proof of funds from other sources, like funeral or burial insurance or pre-paid funerals.
FEMA will only reimburse for what was paid out of pocket.
While FEMA has not disclosed how much it’s setting aside for the program, there is no deadline to apply.
The agency has paid for funeral assistance in past disasters, but they told News4 that they expect applications for COVID-19 funerals to be the largest number in the agency’s history.
However, FEMA has already received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. The agency will not contact anyone unless they have already registered.