Coronavirus Funeral Assistance

by Albert B. Kelly, Mayor, City of Bridgeton

The severity of the pandemic, if not obvious by a simple look at the stats (as of this writing, 81,828,144 people have been infected with Covid-19 and 1,008,174 have died of the disease in the United States), then the fact that FEMA is now offering funeral assistance to help offset the costs of burying our Covid-19 dead erases all doubt.

We shouldn’t be surprised, but other than what you’d expect in the aftermath of a tornado or hurricane, you don’t expect to see “funeral assistance” for something that’s unfolded over two-plus years. Yet it makes sense with so many families in a fragile state.

In order to be eligible for Coronavirus Funeral Assistance, the following criteria are applicable; the death must have occurred after January 20, 2020 and the person applying must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or a qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses due to Covid-19 after January 20, 2020. In addition, the death must have occurred in the United States, though there is no requirement for the deceased to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.

The deceased person’s death certificate must show that the death was attributed to or caused by COVID-19. That may be straight-forward enough for those who passed later in the pandemic. For those who became ill and died early in the pandemic, before testing was widely available, this might not have been noted at the time.

Accordingly, FEMA advises that if a death occurred between January 20, 2020 and May 16, 2020, and the death certificate doesn’t attribute the death to COVID-19, then the applicant must include a signed statement from the death certificate’s certifying official, local coroner, or medical examiner that links the cause of death to COVID-19.

This is a reimbursement program to help offset direct funeral expenses, specifically including a headstone, the use of a funeral home, cremation or interment costs, costs of clergy, burial plot, the transfer of remains, or transportation costs to identify a decedent.

Those applying need to provide their name, social security number, date of birth, mailing address, and phone number as well as the name, social security number, and date of birth for each deceased person and the specific location (address) where the deceased person passed away.

The applicant also needs to provide documentation and receipts for any assistance already received from other sources, including burial or funeral insurance, donations, or assistance from other government programs or non-profit organizations. Finally, the applicant needs to provide the name and information of any co-applicant(s) if anyone else incurred funeral expenses for the deceased person.

To apply and upload the specific documents required to get assistance, you can call 844-684-6333 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. or go online at disasterassistance.gov. For more information, visit FEMA.gov/funeral-assistance/faq. Documents can also be mailed to: COVID-19 Funeral Assistance, P.O. Box 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782

FEMA’s Region 2 office is performing targeted outreach for their Funeral Assistance Program and for New Jersey, this includes Cumberland County. My hope is that you don’t need this assistance because you haven’t lost a loved one and that your household hasn’t fallen on hard times financially. Yet, for all that you’ve been through, if you need help, know that it’s available.

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