1 million deaths with COVID-19, but only 350,000 families have asked FEMA for help with funeral costs

1 million deaths with COVID-19, but only 350,000 families have asked FEMA for help with funeral costs

Despite more than 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States this week, few families have benefited from a government program to help cover the cost of funerals for victims.

In April 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency launched a funeral assistance program that offers loved ones a refund of up to $ 9,000, which is the average cost of a funeral.

However, only about a third of eligible families have received reimbursements.

In the year since the program began, FEMA has distributed $ 2.3 billion to 351,000 Americans to cover funeral costs for about 369,000 people who have died from the virus, averaging about $ 6,500 each. FEMA published earlier this month.

To qualify for assistance, applicants must provide a death certificate stating that the death “may have been caused by” or “was probably the result” of COVID-19 or similar COVID-19 symptoms.

The death must have taken place in or after January. 20, 2020, which is the date when the first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the USA was reported

Applicants must apply by telephone and, following the call, can send proof of funeral expenses – such as detailed receipts, invoices or funeral contracts – or other online assistance, by post or fax.

Reimbursements may be used to cover any part of funeral expenses, including burial plots, coffins, corpse preparation, cremation, urns, clergy, services and tombstones, as well as costs related to state or local ordinances and the production of certificates. of death.

Holders of temporary or work tourist visas are not allowed to apply for assistance. In addition, pre-planned or prepaid funerals are not eligible for reimbursement, even if the person died of COVID-19.

“Most ineligibility decisions are due to funeral expenses paid by another source, such as funeral or funeral insurance,” FEMA Secretary of State Jeremy Edwards told ABC News. “Any payment made specifically for a funeral before death shall be considered a duplication and shall not be eligible for reimbursement.”

An ABC News analysis comparing the number of FEMA requests with the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that North Carolina led the U.S. in 68% of funeral assistance requests.

Southern states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina, had the highest rates, with 58% or more deaths leading to claims. In the meantime, Western states had the lowest turnout rates, with Montana, Oregon and Washington accounting for 37% or fewer deaths leading to applications.

To make more Americans aware of the program, FEMA launched an information campaign in March 2021, with paid ads and multi-language media roundtables.

“FEMA will continue to address all affected communities, including those who have been historically served, which is why we recently launched a targeted awareness campaign – in San Bernardino, California; Bronx County, New York; Philadelphia; and Hidalgo, Texas – all areas identified with high COVID-19 death rates, low funeral care rates and high social vulnerability scores, ”Edwards said in a statement.

The statement continued: “We have also sent over 780,000 letters, initiated almost 190,000 automatic dialing contacts and made 64,619 personal information calls to raise awareness of the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.”

The agency also said it would pay special attention to California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, all of which had high death rates from COVID-19.

Some local community groups have taken on the responsibility of educating people about the application process. COVID Survivors for Change, a group that supports those “directly affected” by COVID, hosted a Facebook Live program last year to answer some frequently asked questions about funeral assistance.

FEMA has provided funeral assistance in the past to Americans killed during declared federal disasters, such as Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018. However, the agency says the program is “the largest funeral assistance in FEMA history.” .

Leave a Comment