There are a number of options available, including:
- Determine if the deceased person qualifies for any entitlements. Check with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and with your State Fund. Many people are entitled to get financial assistance with their funeral costs from these agencies if they qualify.
- Review all insurance policies the deceased person has, including life insurance. Some life insurance policies have coverage clauses for funeral related costs.
- Find local charities providing financial help for funeral expenses. Search for non profit organizations and for churches in your area.
- Talk to your funeral director about cremation options - these can be much less expensive depending on your choices.
FEMA Funeral Assistance
Updated: April 2, 2021
On April 12, 2021 FEMA will begin accepting applications for financial reimbursement for funeral expenses incurred for deaths related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) after January 20, 2020.
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number
Applications begin on April 12, 2021
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time
Who is eligible to apply?
The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses for a death attributed to COVID-19 after January 20, 2020. They do not need to be the next-of-kin or executor but their name needs to be on the funeral home contract, bill or receipted statement (receipt). A minor child (a child under the age of 18 years old) cannot apply on behalf of a non-U.S. citizen. However, if the minor directly incurred the expense of the funeral themself and there is sufficient proof, FEMA will consider their application.
The death must have taken place in the United States, territories or District of Columbia. The cause of death must be related to COVID-19. The deceased individual (decedent) did not have to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national nor qualified alien.
If multiple people contributed to the funeral, they must apply under a single application as applicant and co-applicant. If more than two people incurred expenses for the same funeral, FEMA will consider receipts from individuals other than the applicant or co-applicant as long as the documentation is submitted with the same application. It is important to note that only the applicant needs to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien; the co-applicant and other individuals submitting receipts do not have to be U.S. citizens.
FEMA can accept one application per decedent and will only issue one lump sum payment. They will send the payment to the applicant- they will not divide it up among co-applicants or other individuals who submitted documentation for the application. If you are planning a memorial service at a later date, we recommend waiting until all services are complete before starting an application.
Funeral Homes cannot submit applications on their client’s behalf. However, we are here to help with any questions you may have or documentation you may need.
Documentation and Information Needed
To prepare for the application process, we recommend having the following information at hand:
Social Security Numbers for the decedent and applicant
Dates of Birth for the decedent and applicant
Current Mailing Address for applicant
Current Phone Number for applicant
Location or Address where the death occurred
Routing and Account Number of the applicant’s checking or savings account if requesting direct deposit
Information about burial or funeral insurance policies (these are insurance policies specifically for funding a funeral and are often different than life insurance policies)
Information about other funeral assistance received (such as donations, crowd-funding, go-fund-me, etc.)
Information about assistance received from government or voluntary organizations (Medicaid, Firemen’s Benevolent Association, etc.)
Funds set aside specifically for funeral expenses (i.e. a death benefit) or received from outside sources (Medicaid, donations, volunteer organizations) are considered “duplicate benefits” and will not be reimbursed. FEMA will only reimburse what was not covered by these additional services. For example, if the funeral expenses incurred totaled $4,000 and donations covered $3,000, FEMA would potentially reimburse the individual who incurred the expense the remaining $1,000. The assistance is limited to a maximum financial amount of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,000 per application if the applicant is applying for assistance for more than one funeral.
Once the application is started, the applicant will need to submit the following documentation:
Death Certificate: An official death certificate that attributes the death to COVID-19 and shows the death occurred in the U.S. The death certificate must indicate that the death was caused by or likely caused by COVID-19 or COVID-19 like symptoms. If the death certificate does not mention COVID-19 and the family believes COVID-19 was a contributing cause, it is the responsibility of the next of kin to reach out to the certifying physician (listed on the official death certificate) and request and change to the cause of death. The funeral home cannot amend any part of the death certificate filled out by the certifying physician.
Funeral Expense Documents: These documents can include receipts, funeral home contracts, etc. and must include the applicant’s name, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses and the dates the funeral expenses were incurred. The applicant does not need to be the next of kin but they do need to be listed as the one who incurred the expense from the funeral home.
What is Covered?
FEMA will provide assistance up to $9,000 per funeral. An applicant may apply for multiple decedents. If the applicant incurred funeral expenses for more than one COVID-19-related death in the U.S, they can receive up to $35,000 per application. This assistance is intended to help offset expenses for funeral services, cremation and/or interment, not personal expenses incurred to attend the funeral (FEMA will not pay for new clothes for the family or plane tickets to travel back and forth to the funeral). Expenses typically include but are not limited to:
Transfer to the funeral home from the place of death,
Casket or urn,
Burial plot, tomb, niche for cremated remains,
Burial or urn vault, mausoguard,
Marker, headstone or inscription of an existing marker,
Clergy or officiant services, house of worship,
Funeral home expenses,
Use of the funeral home staff, equipment, livery,
Cremation or interment costs (grave or mausoleum opening/ closing fees),
Death certificates and state permit fees.
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. The best plan of action is to submit what receipts/ documentation you have and see what FEMA will cover.
How to Apply
On April 12, 2021, FEMA will create a special 800 phone number. Applicants are instructed to call this number with the information listed above to start the application process. FEMA will not be accepting online applications. Applicants will be given an application number- be sure to write this number down and keep it in a safe place. You will need it along with your name and social security number to check in on the process of your application.
After an application number is assigned, the applicant and co-applicant can create an online account at DisasterAssistance.gov. The applicant can upload the supporting documents listed above to their online account. We were advised that this is the fastest way to process documents.
Supporting documents can also be faxed or mailed to FEMA but be sure that the assigned application number is attached.
Important to Know
During the application process, FEMA will ask about the applicant’s annual household income. This is only for their own demographic studies. Applications will not be accepted nor denied based on this information.
Multilingual and TTY services will be available.
PLEASE BE AWARE OF SCAMS: The person who incurred the funeral expense must start the application. FEMA representatives will NOT be cold-calling next-of-kin to collect information before the application process has begun. If you suspect you received a fraudulent call, please report it to the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or reach out to your local law enforcement agency.
More information will be provided in the coming weeks as FEMA irons out the final details of its policy. Be sure to check this page for the most up to date information or click here to visit FEMA’s Funeral Assistance page.