The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which usually provides funding for funeral expenses related to natural disasters, said Wednesday that it will reimburse families for funeral expenses of loved ones who died from covid-19 after Jan. 20, 2020.
Starting in April, FEMA said it will pay up to $9,000 in expenses for individual funerals and those who lost multiple family members can apply for up to $35,000.
Black people are twice as likely to die from covid-19 as whites in the U.S., according to the Color of Coronavirus Project, an initiative from American Public Media. Funeral expenses during the pandemic have been disproportionately borne by Black people across the country.
Cremations increased among Black communities during the coronavirus, PBS’s Frontline reported. Families cited economic hardship during the prolonged health crisis.
“Money is tight. People are out of work or can’t work, whether they’re just furloughed or unemployed,” said Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America. “You may have an unexpected death or, in some cases, multiple deaths in the same family.”
U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and qualified resident aliens can apply, FEMA said in a press release.
FEMA said it hopes to help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the pandemic.
“The covid-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people,” acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said in a prepared statement. “Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”
FEMA has set aside $2 billion to reimburse “individuals and households” for funeral expenses between Jan. 20 and Dec. 31, 2020 with money allocated in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, ABC News reported.
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“With empathy being the priority, we want to be able to case manage and have that human-to-human interaction as we do this and make sure that we do it in a way that supports everyone’s needs,” Fenton told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Tuesday.
The agency said it will set up a dedicated 800 number to help applicants. They’ll need documents including an official death certificate, funeral expense documents and proof of funds received from other sources.
For more information, go to COVID-19 Funeral Assistance | FEMA.gov.
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