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FEMA Program to Reimburse Funeral Expenses for COVID Related Deaths

Effective April 12, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began accepting applications for its COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program (“Program”).  The Program provides critical financial relief to qualifying individuals who paid for funeral expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, reimbursing Applicants up to $9,000 per qualifying funeral.  Additionally, the Program allows reimbursement for expenses from multiple funerals totaling up to $35,000 per Application, a stark reminder that many people have lost multiple loved-ones to COVID-19 and a reflection of the severity and impact of this pandemic.

Reimbursement under the Program is available to any United States citizen, non-citizen National, or qualified alien who paid funeral expenses for individuals whose death in the United States or its territories was caused by or was likely the result of COVID-19.  To apply, an Applicant must call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance telephone number at (844) 684-6333—the Program will not accept online or paper applications.  Applicants should have available during their call the Social Security Numbers for the Applicant and the deceased, a copy of the Death Certificate(s) of the deceased, the date(s) on which qualifying funeral expenses were paid, the Applicant’s address and telephone number, and the Adjusted Gross Income for the Applicant’s household.  After an Applicant speaks with a FEMA representative, they must fax, mail, or upload to their account the required supporting documentation, noting the Application Number on every page.  Required supporting documentation includes, at a minimum, a copy of the Death Certificate(s) of the deceased and proof of payment for qualifying funeral expenses.  Upon approval of the Application, the Applicant will receive payment via check or direct deposit, depending on which means of payment they elect when applying.  If an Application is denied, the Applicant has sixty days to submit to FEMA a letter appealing the decision.

One unfortunate aspect of the Program is that it will not reimburse funeral expenses that were paid by funeral or burial insurance, a pre-paid funeral contract, irrevocable burial reserves, or any other source of payment made “in anticipation of a future death,” regardless of whether the death was COVID-19 related.  Qualifying expenses must have been incurred after January 20, 2020 to be eligible for reimbursement.

People should beware that FEMA’s funeral reimbursement program has given rise to scams.  As such, FEMA has clarified that it will not contact anyone until the person has called FEMA and applied for assistance, and that individuals should not disclose any personal information in response to a suspicious request.  Individuals who suspect they have received a fraudulent request for personal information may report the contact to FEMA (800-621-3362), the National Center for Fraud Hotline (866-720-5721), and their local law enforcement agency.

For further information, please visit FEMA’s Funeral Assistance FAQs.

This update was prepared by Attorney Ryan Burroughs, who practices in the areas of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Estate Administration.  This update does not constitute legal advice and has been prepared for informational purposes only.  Please contact Ryan directly with questions about how these provisions affect you.