The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse many COVID-19-related funeral expenses.
Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Congress has funded the financial assistance, which will be available for funeral expenses incurred from Jan. 20, 2020, through September 2025, said Don Otto, executive director of the Missouri Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association.
FEMA will soon provide an 800 number for folks to call to apply for the funds. However, potential applicants must have specific documentation available before calling, Otto said.
Gather any documentation for bills you've paid or that you are obligated to pay, Otto said.
You will also need the death certificate for the deceased, he said.
"The death certificate must mention COVID-19," Otto said. "If you believe the person died either directly or indirectly because of COVID-19, and the death certificate doesn't say that, the death certificate can be amended."
Contact the doctor or coroner who signed the death certificate and ask them to amend it, he said.
Death certificates are easy to amend, and the entire process takes a couple of weeks, Otto said.
The revenue will pay for all funeral or cremation expenses.
If you paid for flowers or an independent pastor out of your pocket, submit those costs.
Something to keep in mind, he continued, is that if somebody died over the past year because of the pandemic and the family did not do everything they would have liked for the decedent — for example, if the family held a small, private service because they had to socially distance — they can add to what they've already done and be reimbursed.
If a family member wants to hold a memorial service, the FEMA funds will help pay for that. If someone wants to buy a headstone or marker, they can do that now.
"Any legitimate item they would like to add on, they can do that," Otto said.
If families, in their grief and confusion, have misplaced documents, they can contact the funeral home that handled their loved one and the funeral director will help them replace the documentation.
If the person who died had an insurance policy and the family used that money to pay for the funeral, that money may be reimbursed.
However, it will not pay for parts of funerals that were funded through charitable campaigns, such as a GoFundMe drive, or for pre-paid funeral plans.
If, however, a charitable campaign paid for only part of the funeral (for instance, if the funeral cost $8,000 and the campaign raised $5,000) the balance may be reimbursed through the FEMA funding.
According to a memo from the MFDEA, eligible expenses include but are not limited to:
Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased.
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.
If applicants already received reimbursement for certain funeral expenses through government agencies, voluntary agencies, nonprofits or burial or funeral insurance, they cannot submit those same expenses for reimbursement through this FEMA-administered program.
FEMA will only award COVID-19 Funeral Assistance for a deceased individual on a single application. If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should register under a single applicant and co-applicant.
"The message for people right now is 'Start collecting your documents,'" Otto said. "Before you call the 800 number, you need to have the documentation all lined up."