FEMA accepting applications for funeral expense reimbursement to families who lost someone to COVID-19

The federal agency was quickly overwhelmed with callers when the application process opened Monday.

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A man salutes as the hearse carrying Chicago Police Officer Officer Marco DiFranco leaves Cumberland Funeral Chapels in April 2020.

The federal government will reimburse families up to $9,000 per burial for funeral expenses of someone who died of COVID-19.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering up to $9,000 per burial to help families cover the funeral expenses of loved ones who died of COVID-19.

The application process can be started by calling 844-684-6333.

There’s currently no deadline for the program, which launched Monday and was quickly overwhelmed by callers.

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“There was an extraordinarily high call volume Monday,” FEMA spokesman Dan Shulman told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.

“There were close to 20,000 calls that got through Monday. We knew going in we were going to experience an extremely high call volume on the first day because of the number of people who’ve passed in the last year and some people experienced extended busy signals,” he said.

“We ask for people’s patience. We expect that volume to continue for at least the foreseeable future. But there’s no expectation we will not have sufficient funds to pay every eligible claim,” he said.

As of Tuesday, there were 21,540 COVID-19 deaths recorded in Illinois and more than 562,000 deaths nationally.

To qualify for the money:

  • 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.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or qualified immigrant who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or qualified immigrant.

Those eligible for funeral assistance can receive the money via check by mail or direct deposit.

Assistance is limited to $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.

FEMA also warned of fraudsters who might try to take advantage of the program and asked people to beware that FEMA will not contact anyone until they have called FEMA or have applied for assistance.

It also warned people not to disclose information such as the name, birth date or Social Security number of any deceased family member to any unsolicited telephone calls or emails from anyone claiming to be a federal employee or from FEMA.

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