FEMA to help families cover funeral costs for loved ones lost to COVID

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Death is a part of life, but death from COVID-19 can often be unexpected and untimely.

At the height of pandemic restrictions, funerals in Rhode Island were limited to just five people indoors.

Families were unable to say goodbye to loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes. However, they still had to foot the bill for the costs of the funeral they, in some cases, couldn’t even attend.

Now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering some financial relief through reimbursements of as much as $9,000.

Starting Monday, April 12, individuals can apply for the program by calling a toll-free hotline at 844-684-6333 or 800-462-7585. Call center hours are between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

FEMA says online applications will not be accepted, but after calling the toll-free number, an agent will secure an application number for you. At that point, you’ll be given a link to upload any receipts and other paperwork needed to complete the application.

In Massachusetts, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin encouraged residents to apply through a link on the state’s website.

To be eligible, a person must show proof that a loved one died of COVID-19 after Jan. 20, 2020. The death must have occurred in the United States, however, the deceased isn’t required to be a U.S. citizen.

Residents are advised to fill out one application, even if multiple people shared the funeral costs. In that case, people can apply as co-applicants, and FEMA said it will work with them on the specific circumstances.

Those eligible for federal assistance will receive a check in the mail or through direct deposit, according to FEMA.

Even though the application period hasn’t opened yet, FEMA is already warning of fraud. The agency noted that scam artists are calling people and offering assistance in the application process.

FEMA said they will never call anyone to offer help with this program.

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