The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.

The funds are part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

According to the FEMA website, assistance is available for multiple funerals but is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or the District of Columbia.

“This is a great program,” said Chris Rabon, funeral director of Becker-Rabon Funeral Home. “Many people weren’t as prepared as they should have been and this program has been a tremendous benefit to them.”

The program isn’t as broad as it first appears, Rabon said. There are restrictions on who can apply and what qualifies as a COVID-19 death.

To qualify, applicants must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who paid for funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020, and the funeral expenses were for an individual whose death in the United States, territories or the District of Columbia, may have been caused by or was likely the result of COVID-19. The deceased does not have to be a U.S. citizen, according to qualifications on the website.

Applicants will need a copy of an official death certificate that attributes the death to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, according to the FEMA website. The death certificate must indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely the result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution.

The initial application is simple, said Jamey Foshee, benefit coordinator at Becker-Rabon Funeral Home. Applicants must make the initial call to FEMA and apply, but after the applicant is given an application number, Foshee and the funeral home can assist with gathering the necessary documents and submitting them to FEMA.

The program began April 12. Since then, Rabon and Foshee have been contacting former customers and assisting them with reimbursement as well as assisting new customers, Foshee said.

“The program only began about three weeks ago,” Foshee said. “No one we’ve worked with has yet to receive payment.”

Payments made by FEMA are reimbursements for expenses, said Foshee. However not all circumstances are reimbursable. For instance, if an applicant pre-paid funeral expenses, those are not reimbursable. This also includes burial or funeral insurance, a pre-paid funeral contract, a pre-paid trust for funeral expenses, or an irrevocable trust for Medicaid.

To apply, applicants must call (844) 684-6333 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. CST Monday through Friday. Online applications will not be accepted. However, once an applicant’s initial call is made and they’re given an application number, documents can be submitted online.

For more information, visit https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance#eligible or contact a local funeral home.

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