**Be Aware: We have recently learned that scammers have reached out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. FEMA specifically notes on their website that they have not sent any such notifications and will not contact people prior to them registering for assistance.**
How to get FREE funeral money from FEMA in April 2021 for families affected by COVID-19.
Why is FEMA giving away FREE funeral money?
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 gave FEMA approval to provide financial assistance for COVID-19 funeral-related expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.
When is FEMA providing assistance?
At the beginning of April FEMA will publish a phone number dedicated to the funeral assistance. They have not yet released a date for accepting application submissions.
Will you qualify?
To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:
- The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
- The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19. Either as the primary cause of death or a contributing factor.
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred unreimbursed funeral-related expenses after January 20, 2020.
- There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
What will you need to apply?
- An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
- Funeral-related expense documents (funeral home receipts, headstone receipts, cemetery receipts, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses were incurred.
- Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA specifically states “We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.”
So here we what I know right now:
It is no secret that COVID-19 has created unexpected funeral-related expenses for the family and friends of approximately 543,000 people in the US.
According to data released by the National Funeral Director’s Association, in 2019 the median cost of a funeral was between $7,640 and $9,135 before cemetery and headstone expenses. FEMA has committed to reimbursing up to $9,000 in funeral-related expenses per person who deceased due to COVID-19 until funds run out.
If each family were to apply for the maximum benefit, FEMA would need nearly $5 billion to disperse. Unfortunately, only $2,000,000,000 in reimbursement funds are available through FEMA right now.
Keeping in mind that there is not enough funds available for everyone affected, I highly recommend that, if you want to apply for funds, you need to do that as soon as the application process opens up.
There are a lot of emerging details to consider when applying for these funds! You may review the preliminary program details here. After reading about the program, if you decide you would like to submit an application for reimbursement, I highly recommend gathering your documentation now.
Step 1: Prior to Applying, Gather all Potentially Required Documentation
Here is what you should gather:
Obtain a certified copy of the death certificate
First and foremost, getting a certified or official copy of the death certificate can take time! Do this first if you don’t already have extra official copies.
If you need to obtain official copies, I would recommend calling your funeral home and asking how to go about getting a certified or official copy that you can send in with your application. You might not receive this document back after applying, so it is important to make sure you have a copy that you are okay with sending.
Please note, as I understand it, if your loved one’s death certificate does not list COVID-19 as a contributing factor, you cannot apply.
Gather all funeral related invoices
It is important to make sure you collect all invoices and paid in full receipts for everything related to your loved one’s memorial. This includes invoices from the funeral home, cemetery and monument/headstone shop. Make sure all invoices have been paid in full and that they itemize what the charges were for.
I would also recommend getting copies of the cancelled checks and/or credit card receipts just in case they will be required. I would certainly rather have too much documentation than not enough!
Gather proof of funds from other sources
This one is super important. If you received reimbursement from funeral or burial insurances, agencies, crowd sourcing, etc, please obtain copies of the funds that you received and turn them in. FEMA has been unclear about what exactly qualifies as funds received from other sources. While they specifically state funeral or burial insurances, they do not list other life insurances. Go ahead and gather the documentation and have it ready so that you may proceed once further guidance is available.
Step 2: Remain Vigilant in Understanding Program details. This FEMA program is still being developed and clarifying details are constantly being released. A phone number is being published in April and the website is also being updated with information.
Because this program is evolving on a near-daily basis, it is important to watch their website for changes, a published phone number for assistance and additional application information.
Step 3: Do Not Give Up
If you have trouble obtaining your documentation in a timely manner, do not understand the details or are simply frustrated in general, do not give up! Enlist the assistance of family or friends – ask them to help you understand details, make phone calls on your behalf, or even run to pick up documentation copies. This is the time to take them up on that standing offer of “let me know if I can do anything to help”!