How families of COVID-19 victims can get federal funeral assistance from FEMA

The federal government has provided over $2 billion to help cover funeral costs for more than 300,000 families of people and is trying to reach more who are eligible for the aid.

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With the Washington Monument in the background, people look at white flags that were part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s temporary art installation, “In America: Remember,” in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington last September.

With the Washington Monument in the background, people look at white flags that were part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s temporary art installation, “In America: Remember,” in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington last September.

Brynn Anderson / AP

The federal government has provided more than $2 billion to help cover funeral costs for more than 300,000 families of people who died from COVID-19, but more families are eligible, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in announcing a new campaign to raise awareness about the aid.

The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program provides up to $9,000 per funeral and covers coronavirus-related deaths since Jan. 20, 2020. The average amount awarded has been $6,500, according to FEMA.

More than 965,000 people have died in the United States from the virus.

Deanne Criswell, FEMA’s administrator, said a new advertising campaign is targeting California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas — areas with high rates of COVID deaths but lower rates of reimbursement requests for the funeral assistance.

To be eligible for reimbursement, death certificates for those who died after May 16, 2020, must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID. For deaths in the early months of the pandemic — from Jan. 20,2020, to May 16, 2020 — death certificates must be accompanied with a signed statement from a medical examiner, coroner or the certifying official listed on the certificate indicating that coronavirus was the cause or a contributing cause of death.

Expenses covered under the FEMA program include funeral services, cremation and interment as well as the costs for caskets or urns, burial plots or cremation niches, markers or headstones, transportation or transfer of remains, clergy or officiant services and the use of funeral home equipment and staff.

FEMA isn’t accepting online applications for the reimbursement program. People who are eligible should call the agency’s toll-free helpline at (844) 684-6333.

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