by Maurie Backman | April 13, 2021
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Many of us have suffered devastating losses during the pandemic. Now, there's at least some financial relief.
COVID-19 has claimed a staggering number of lives since cases first started multiplying over a year ago. Not only have many families had to bury loved ones, but they've had to exhaust their savings or go into debt in laying relatives to rest.
Now there's at least a little good news on that front. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will now give out money to help families cover pandemic-related funeral costs.
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Money clearly can't bring back a loved one -- but it can make arranging a funeral easier financially. On April 12, FEMA launched a hotline for families in need of assistance to apply for grants of up to $9,000 to help cover burial costs. The number to call for aid is 844-684-6333.
For a family to qualify for funeral expense relief, the death of a loved one must have occurred in the U.S. or one of its territories, and the funeral expenses must have been incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. In other words, these FEMA grants aren't just for upcoming funerals -- they're for funerals that have occurred since the start of the pandemic. Another requirement is that the death of the departed person is attributed to COVID-19 or symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Anyone who applies for a funeral grant must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident. However, the deceased does not have to be.
FEMA grant money can cover costs such as buying a burial plot, hiring clergy to perform a ceremony, and cremation. Those who have already received aid for funeral costs (say, from local charities) should expect to have any FEMA aid reduced proportionately.
In December 2020, lawmakers finally came to terms on a second coronavirus relief bill to follow the CARES Act of March 2020. About $2 billion of December's $900 billion in relief was earmarked for this initiative. Furthermore, the more recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan -- the relief bill responsible for the current round of $1,400 stimulus checks -- provided FEMA with an additional $50 billion for pandemic-related costs.
The pandemic has upended a lot of people's finances and driven millions of Americans into unemployment. And that's just the financial damage -- it doesn't begin to address the emotional damage that's ensued over the past year-plus.
Those eligible for funeral cost assistance should contact FEMA. Though the agency has already been inundated with calls -- not surprising, since its initiative just launched -- there's currently no deadline to apply for assistance. Those who can't get through immediately can and should keep trying until they get the aid they deserve.
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