Justice Center News

The Justice Center News blog features our advocacy on issues affecting low-income New Yorkers today and the latest CBJC happenings.  For press releases, click here. For publications, click here.

FEMA Funeral Expense Reimbursement If You Lost a Loved One to COVID

by Sofia Colosimo April 22, 2021

Sofia Colosimo is a project coordinator for the Homeowner Stability and LGBT Advocacy Projects. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program to reimburse funeral costs to those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19. As the country grieves the over 560,000 people who have passed since the start of the pandemic, the program aims to relieve the financial strain of funeral expenses in an already emotionally and economically challenging time. If you or someone you know has lost a loved one due to COVID-19, applications are now open for reimbursement up to $9000 per funeral with a maximum award of $35,000 for expenses incurred after January 20th, 2020. Qualifying expenses include cremation or interment costs, transfer of remains, clergy or officiant services, and use of funeral home equipment or staff, among other expenses.

FEMA reached out to organizations that work with the LGBTQ+ community, assuring that the program is open to anyone who paid funeral bills for a loved one who passed away due to COVID-19. The program is not limited to only family members or those with legal familial connection. This includes unmarried partners, friends, community members, and others.

To be eligible for funds, the death must have occurred in the United States or U.S. territories and the death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19. Additionally, the applicant must be a U.S citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien; however, the deceased’s documentation status is not considered. In the event that multiple individuals contributed to funeral expenses for one deceased individual, FEMA will work with co-applicants who submit multiple receipts for funeral expenses when their name does not appear on the receipt.  However, co-applicants must submit a single application to receive FEMA reimbursement.

Those interested in applying for funds should call the dedicated toll-free hotline at 844-684-6333 to begin the application process. The hotline is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. Multilingual services are available. FEMA currently reports a high call volume to the hotline, so callers may encounter a busy signal or long wait times; however; there is currently no deadline to apply, so applicants are encouraged to call again at a different time if they are unable to connect with a representative.

Applicants should expect the initial call to last around 20 minutes and are encouraged to collect the following information before the call to ensure that the process goes smoothly:

  1. Social Security number and date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual (reimbursement is still available even if the deceased individual had no Social Security number)
  2. Current mailing address and phone number for the applicant
  3. Location or address where the deceased individual passed away
  4. Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
  5. Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations, CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
  6. Routing and account number of the applicant’s checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested)

Once the initial call is complete, applicants should submit application documents by fax to 855-261-3452, by mail to P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782, or online through DisasterAssistance.gov. A complete application should include:

  1. An official death certificate which lists COVID-19 as the cause of death and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including U.S. territories and District of Columbia. The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by, may have been caused by or was likely a result of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution.
    • If the death certificate does not attribute COVID-19 as the cause of death, there are multiple ways to remedy it. Applicants should first order a “long form death certificate” which includes a confidential medical report of the cause of death. In the event that the long form certificate does not attribute the death to COVID-19, applicants can then work to amend the death certificate. If it has been six months or less since the death, the medical certifier listed on the death certificate can assist in with correcting or amending the cause of death. If it has been seven or more months since the death, applicants should complete Form DOH-299 Application for Correction of a Death Certificate and have the medical certifier listed on the death certificate sign off on the correction. In both cases, applicants may need to provide evidence that the death was attributable to COVID-19, such as medical records
  2. Funeral expense documents (e.g. receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the dollar amount spent, and the dates on which the transactions were completed.
  3. Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. Life insurance proceeds are not considered a duplication of Funeral Assistance benefits.

If the application is approved, you will receive funds either by mail or direct deposit depending on the preference you indicate in your initial phone call.

If the application is denied, there is a 60-day window to appeal the decision. To do so, applicants should submit an appeal letter explaining why they believe the decision is not correct and include any supporting documentation (e.g. death certificate, medical or financial records, receipts, etc.). Appeal documents can be submitted either by fax, mail, or online in the same manner as the application documents.

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to COVID, have incurred funeral expenses, and need assistance in completing the application or obtaining the necessary documents to do so, please feel free to contact the City Bar Justice Center’s Planning and Estates Law Project by email at pelpintakes@nycbar.org or apply online.

The information contained in this blog post is believed to be accurate as of the date of publication, but all program requirements should be independently confirmed and specific legal situations should be referred to legal counsel.

Recent posts