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The measure was part of the, which is also a of up to $ 600. The bill includes $ 2 billion for people harmed by the and they may have gone into debt to pay for the funeral and burial of a loved one. That funding was approved in February, Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both New York Democrats, on Feb. 8, and FEMA is in the process of setting up the program to compensate families in need.
Here’s everything we know about the funeral expenses funds so far, including who is eligible and how to apply.
Who Can Apply for Reimbursement for COVID-19-Related Funeral Expenses?
We don’t yet know exactly who will be eligible to receive these funds, or whether it will be based solely on income level or some other set of factors.
“If you’re a family who couldn’t afford it or just had to stretch out, with no rent or no food or anything else, so you could give your loved one a decent funeral and burial, you can get compensation of up to $ 7,000 of FEMA, ” said Schumer at a press event on Feb. 8.
Funding will be available for funeral expenses incurred between January 20 and December 31, 2020, but not for funerals that took place in 2021, a FEMA spokesperson told CNET.
To be eligible for the aid, you must meet the following conditions according to FEMA:
- The death must have occurred in the US, including the US territories and the District of Columbia.
- The death certificate must state that the death was attributed to COVID-19.
- Applicant must be a U.S. Citizen, Non-Civil Citizen, or Qualified Alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020. (There is no requirement for the deceased to have been a U.S. Citizen, Non-Civil Citizen, or Qualified Alien. )
Schumer estimated that more than $ 200 million of that funding will go to New York, particularly epicenters of the virus such as Corona, Queens.
How much money will you be reimbursed?
The bill says FEMA will reimburse families up to $ 7,000 for COVID-related funeral and burial expenses. It is not yet clear which factors determine who can receive all or part of the available money.
In 2019, the median national cost of a funeral with viewing and burial was $ 7,640, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. If a vault or chest is included (which is often required in a cemetery), the median cost rose to $ 9,135. And that doesn’t take into account costs for cemeteries, monuments or headstones, or various cash advances, such as for flowers or an obituary, the NFDA noted.
When and How Can You Apply for COVID-19 Funeral Allowances?
The details are still being worked out, but FEMA is creating a special toll-free phone number that can be used to request funeral assistance. The agency will start accepting applications in April. In the meantime, it recommends families gather documentation about funeral expenses (more below).
“FEMA is rapidly finalizing an implementation plan and interim policy to support the provision of funeral support to eligible citizens,” a FEMA spokesperson said in a February email. To help manage the program, FEMA is hiring contract support through the federal acquisition process to help manage the program. The contract is open for proposals until February 8. After a contract is awarded, FEMA will make an announcement later this year when applications are accepted. “
In a March follow-up, a FEMA spokesperson said the aid will be implemented in April, but additional guidance is still being finalized. It is likely that this process may take a while to resolve.
Progress has also been slow due to concerns that the program could be vulnerable to fraud, Politico reported. With more thanso far this would be the largest program of its kind launched by FEMA. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have informed FEMA that they cannot verify whether individual deaths are related to COVID; instead, FEMA will have to rely on state health and medical agencies to compare federal data with death certificates, Politico said. The agency is also trying to implement ways to prevent people from forging death certificates to raise money, and situations where multiple family members are trying to claim compensation for the same family member.
What information do you need to request?
Before applications open in April, FEMA recommends those eligible to collect the following documentation:
- An official death certificate attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the US, including the US territories and the District of Columbia. (You can get one by contacting the vital state or county records office. Sometimes a funeral home or third-party vendor can also request it for you.)
- Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral contract, etc.) with the name of the applicant, the name of the deceased, the amount of the funeral costs and the dates on which the funeral costs took place.
- Evidence of funds received from other sources specifically for funeral expenses. FEMA is unable to duplicate benefits received from funeral or funeral insurance, financial support from voluntary organizations, government agencies or other sources.
Has FEMA ever done anything like this before?
Yes. Under the Stafford Act, FEMA can provide assistance with funeral expenses if the deaths were caused by a disaster declared by the president. This was the case after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. After three hurricanes hit Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico in 2017, FEMA paid approximately $ 2.6 million in response to 976 approved applications for related funeral expenses, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic is on a much larger scale than anything FEMA has provided assistance to in the past, a spokesperson told CBS. The agency has already contributed more than $ 56.2 billion to the fight against the pandemic, the spokesman said.
“We understand the financial and emotional turmoil COVID-19 has brought to our country, and we are committed to providing funeral aid to the American people as soon as possible,” said a FEMA spokesman. “We are working to streamline the implementation of this program to make it easier for people who have lost loved ones to request and receive help. make everyone easy, efficient and effective. ”
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