FEMA gets more funds for COVID-19 funeral expenses

Medical staff tend to a COVID-19 patient. Courtesy of University Hospitals

Starting next month, those who couldn’t afford to bury their loved ones who died of COVID-19 will have help available from the federal government.

As part of the latest covid relief bill, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will receive an additional $50 billion for their Disaster Relief Fund, “to cover costs associated with major disaster declarations, such as reimbursements for funeral expenses,” according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

The reimbursement comes during a time when Ohio continues to struggle with not only COVID-19 deaths, but also deaths attributed to opioid overdoses.

The state has an indigent burial and cremation program run through the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which was newly revived in 2019.

As part of the budget passed that year, the program received a line-item that allows a reimbursement total of $2 million. Reimbursement applications are funneled through townships and municipalities, which sends the death documentation to the state for review.

Earlier in the pandemic, the board saw 450 applications for funeral costs reimbursement.

Cheryl Grossman, the board’s executive director said applications to the state’s indigent burial fund “continue to increase,” but the impact of the new FEMA program is still being analyzed.

The board plans to bring on new staff in April to help with the state’s indigent burial program applications for reimbursement.

The funding will be available for any funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020, for deaths that occurred in the U.S. The death certificate, which is necessary documentation to apply for reimbursement, must attribute the death “directly or indirectly to COVID-19,” according to FEMA.

Other documents include any receipts or contracts from a funeral home including the applicant’s name and the deceased’s name and the amount of the expenses.

“If you are eligible for funeral assistance you will receive a check by mail, or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you choose when you apply for assistance,” a release by FEMA stated.

The $50 billion made available to FEMA for funeral expenses among other things is to remain available until September 2025.

As of Tuesday, preliminary state data showed a total of 18,382 deaths reported across Ohio attributed to COVID-19.

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