ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — FEMA is now reimbursing up to $9,000 for funeral costs incurred by Covid-19.
If you'd like to apply, you can call their dedicated hotline at 844-684-6333 or the TTY line at 800-462-7585. No online applications will be accepted, you must apply through the call center. It's open Monday through Friday, from 8am to 8pm CT.
This program can help cover expenses relating to funeral services, interment or cremation, and you are allowed to apply for multiple deceased individuals. If several people helped pay for the expenses, FEMA asks that you apply under a single application.
To qualify, the deceased's death certificate must show their death was either caused by Covid-19, or that the virus was a contributing factor. This applies to all coronavirus-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.
If your loved one's death certificate does not list Covid-19 as a contributing factor to their death but you believe it should, you can contact the person who wrote it and have that changed. If allowed, that amendment can be covered with the reimbursement.
The person applying for the reimbursement must either be a United States citizen, a non-citizen national or a qualified alien who paid for the service. However, the deceased does not need to be a United States citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.
After calling the hotline and obtaining an application number, the applicant may be required to show various documents to FEMA, including a death certificate, social security numbers of both the applicant and the deceased, and dates of birth for both.
There is no deadline on this program.
FEMA has done funeral payout programs like this in the past, but this is set to be the largest, and by far the most expensive to date. Two billion dollars have already been set aside for the program, but some expect the cost to go beyond that, as the United States' Covid-19 death toll climbs over 559,000.
At Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home and Crematory in Rock Island, Vice President and Co-Owner Joseph Perez says they've noticed a 10-15% death increase since Covid-19 took hold in the Quad Cities area. They say reimbursements up to $9,000 would cover the majority of most people's funeral expenses.
"It would truly cover all of the process if they were having something like a cremation service with a memorial service," said Perez. "I think one of the averages is close to $8,000 now for a funeral. But sometimes that does not include things such as a burial vault, burial expenses or cash-advance items."
Over the past year, Perez says it's been difficult to not only keep his staff safe from the virus, but also to watch so many families lose communal aspects of the grieving process.
"A lot of people, when they've lost somebody, they look for that comfort of family and friends. They look for hose expressions of sympathy - the handshakes, the hugs, the friendly smiles which you can't hardly see through the mask anymore. So it does make a difficult situation that much more difficult."
But, he says while the money offered from FEMA won't bring back loved ones, it will take off some of the burden incurred by what was - in many cases - unexpected deaths.
"I think for a lot of people, that'll be a big relief. That was a big burden, on top of the hospital stays and nursing facilities, there were a lot of burdens during Covid for families," said Perez. "Financially this is definitely one of them. Unfortunately, some families structure the service here at the funeral home based on what they have financially. So I think this will definitely help them recoup some of those expenses that were lost."