(ABC4) – If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, a federal agency may reimburse you for funeral costs.

In March, acting administrator Robert Fenton announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, was on track to implement its funeral assistance program in early April.

“When we talk about individuals that have lost loved ones, we want to make sure we do it in an empathic way,” he said during a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing. “While we’ve done funeral assistance in disasters, we’ve never done anything at this scale or scope.”

FEMA has been allocated $2 billion through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act of 2021 to reimburse individuals or households for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred between January 20, 2020, and December 2020. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan continues the assistance into 2021.

Fenton explains that you should keep documentation of the COVID-19 funeral expenses. FEMA’s website says types of information include an official death certificate, funeral expenses documents, and proof of funds received from other sources.

Once the program begins, funds will be sent to eligible recipients via a check by mail or funds by direct deposit.

Starting Monday, April 12, FEMA says it will begin accepting applications for Funeral Assistance through its dedicated call center.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for funeral assistance, FEMA says you must meet these conditions:

  • Death must have occurred in the U.S., including U.S. territories and the District of Columbia
  • Death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20,2020

There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

How to apply for funeral assistance

FEMA is beginning to accept applications for COVID-19 funeral assistance through a dedicated call center.

The call center can be reached at 844-684-6333. For individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, or have speech disabilities, call 800-462-7585. The line is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

FEMA is encouraging you to keep and gather the following documentation:

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19 and shows the death occurred in the U.S., its territories, or the District of Columbia.
  • Funeral expenses documents, like receipts and funeral home contracts, that include the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened.
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA says they are unable to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

How funeral assistance funds are received

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

Beware of scams

FEMA is reporting that scams related to funeral assistance funds are already happening. FEMA say it will not contact anyone until they have called FEMA or have applied for assistance.

Do not disclose information such as the name, birth date, or Social Security number of any deceased family member to any unsolicited telephone calls or e-mails from anyone claiming to be a federal employee or from FEMA.

If you doubt a FEMA representative is legitimate, you are encouraged to hang up and report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies.

For more information on the Funeral Assistance Program, visit FEMA’s website.