FLORENCE, Ala. – Because of the sensitive nature of people losing loved ones to COVID-19, FEMA opted to have people call in their applications for funeral assistance. Within the first few minutes of opening the phone lines, FEMA says thousands of calls crashed the system.
“For many of these families, it’s hey dad went into the hospital and dad didn’t come home,” said Chad Holder of Morrison Funeral Homes.
Holder says he’s seen many families suddenly lose loved ones, leaving the family with little to no time to prepare for the financial hurdles that follow.
Given the 560,000+ COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S., Holder isn’t surprised that FEMA’s COVIS-19 funeral assistance phone lines crashed. Especially as families face several deaths in a short period of time.
“Which means you’ve got hundreds of thousands of families who are trying to recover some of that cost. But one woman I know lost three relatives within maybe a two month period.”
If you can’t reach FEMA just yet, It’s important to note there’s no deadline to apply. FEMA initially was given $2 billion for COVID-19 funeral assistance, but the recent relief package added an additional $50 billion for FEMA to use as it wishes.
Families who lost a loved one after January 20th of 2020, are eligible if their loved one died in the U.S or of its territories. The deceased does not have to be a U.S. citizen. However, the applicant for reimbursement does have to be a legal U.S. resident. Just about any funeral expense can be covered.
“Anything from the funeral service itself to the casket or the urn. Even a marker. A foot marker or headstone. Even travel for immediate family,” said Holder.
FEMA says you should have important documents handy when you call. You’ll need an official death certificate, funeral expense documents and insurance documents.
Holder, who serves a mostly rural community out in the Shoals is worried about equal access to these resources and hopes eventually FEMA will consider in-person assistance. Holder worries about folks that are elderly and those who have poor internet access.
Click here for a link to more information.
Applications began on April 12, 2021. Call 844-684-6333. Call 800-462-7585 if you are deaf or hard of hearing.
FEMA takes calls from 8:00am-8:00pm Central Time. You may have some issues calling, but again there’s no deadline.