FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Losing a loved one is tough, and on top of dealing with the emotional grief there’s also the financial stress that comes with the unexpected cost of having a burial or funeral service.
Depending on the arrangements, funeral services can cost families thousands of dollars putting some in a tough spot financially.
Well, FEMA wants to help with those expenses. The government agency’s mission is to be there before, during and after disasters. The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program is FEMA’s way to help ease some of the financial stress created by the deadly virus.
Starting Monday, April 12th, FEMA is offering to reimburse individuals up to $9,000 for COVID-19 related funeral costs, per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.
Nelson Berna Funeral Homes, Owner, Scott Berna says they’ve handled about 75 COVID-19 related deaths and he has seen first-hand the weight it places on families.
“A lot of these families lost loved ones and their loved ones passed away alone or they went through a long illness alone because of COVID-19 protocols. They weren’t allowed to visit. It was very traumatic for families,” said Berna.
He adds they work with families facing financial challenges all the time and this assistance is much needed.
Those who apply will have to provide proof that the death was COVID-19 related, an official death certificate and funeral expense documents like a receipt or contract for the services.
FEMA will cover expenses for funeral services or cremation that includes the cost of the burial plot, casket, headstone, arrangements of the ceremony to name a few.
The money goes directly to the applicant as a reimbursement if they are approved.
This program was made possible under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.
Berna has been familiarizing himself with the program and says individuals have to apply for the assistance directly.
“One of the things people need to be aware of is if you have existing funds like a prearranged funeral or you get funds from a government agency like veteran benefits those funds are not eligible to be reimbursed,” said Berna.
Other things to note is the death must have occurred in the United States. Only COVID-19 funeral expenses after January 20, of 2020 are eligible.
FEMA will soon release an 800 number for its dedicated call center and start accepting applications Monday.