What Is FEMA Funeral Assistance?

Definition

FEMA Funeral Assistance is a financial assistance program offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens who have incurred funeral expenses for someone whose death is related to a declared natural disaster or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pallbearers carry a casket.
Photo:

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Definition and Example of FEMA Funeral Assistance

FEMA Funeral Assistance is a financial assistance program offered by the federal government to U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens who incurred funeral expenses for someone whose death is related to a declared natural disaster or other event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program provides up to $9,000 for each deceased individual. If you incurred funeral expenses for more than one person, you would include all the information on one application. The maximum amount you can receive is $35,000.

Note

If you apply for FEMA Funeral Assistance, you’ll have to provide proof of the expenses you incurred. Make sure you hang on to your receipts and other documentation.

Since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still ongoing, here’s more information about who qualifies for this specific FEMA Funeral Assistance program.

  • The person applying for assistance must be a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien. There is no citizenship requirement for the deceased person.
  • The death must have happened in the United States of America.
  • Funeral expenses must have been incurred after January 20, 2020.
  • The death must be directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19 and be listed as such on the death certificate.

Note

If you lost a loved one early in the pandemic and COVID-19 wasn’t listed on the death certificate, you can get a statement from the certifying official attributing the death to the virus. However, this is only accepted for deaths that occurred between January 20, 2020 and May 16, 2020.

If you think you’re eligible for the assistance program, call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance helpline. Representatives can help you complete the application. You’ll then provide the required documentation to FEMA.

Note

You cannot apply online. You must call the helpline to apply. The call takes approximately 20 minutes once you connect with an agent.

How FEMA Funeral Assistance Works

The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance funds were authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. If you have incurred funeral expenses for a COVID-19-related death and meet the requirements previously mentioned, you can apply for financial help.

Before you call the helpline, you should have the following information close at hand:

  • Your contact information, including your Social Security number, birthdate, address, and phone number
  • Contact information for any co-applicants; you would need this if someone else helped pay for the funeral expenses, too.
  • The name, Social Security number, and birthdate of the deceased
  • The address where the person died
  • Documentation for any funeral assistance you’ve received from other sources; this could be from burial insurance, donations, other government agencies, or nonprofit organizations.
  • Your banking details if you want the funds directly deposited

Note

If you received financial assistance to help pay for the funeral from another source (such as burial insurance), you must report it to FEMA; you can’t receive funeral assistance for expenses covered by another source. However, if you used life insurance proceeds to cover funeral expenses, you are still eligible to apply for FEMA Funeral Assistance.

Once you complete your application, you’ll need to send in your required documentation. These include:

  • A copy of the death certificate
  • Proof of the funeral expenses you’ve paid
  • Proof of other funeral assistance you’ve already received

You can upload these documents to a secure folder in your DisasterAssistance.gov portal, fax them to (855) 261-3452, or mail the documents to P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782. Do this as quickly as possible to avoid any delays in processing your application.

Note

There’s currently no deadline on when you need to apply for COVID-19 funeral assistance. However, that could change in the future. So if you’ve lost someone due to the pandemic, give FEMA a call to see if this program can help.

After FEMA receives all your documents, it will begin verifying and validating them. This could include contacting the funeral home to confirm the information you provided is legitimate. After this process, FEMA makes a decision. You’ll typically know the outcome within 30 days of submitting your documentation.

You’ll usually receive your funds within a matter of days if you opted for direct deposit. It will take longer to get your money if you requested a check.

Note

If your application is denied, you have the right to file an appeal within 60 days. You can learn more about the Funeral Assistance program appeal process on FEMA’s website.

What Does the FEMA Funeral Assistance Program Cover?

This program is designed to cover expenses related to the burial of your loved one. Here are some of the qualifying expenses it covers:

  • The transportation for up to two people to identify the deceased
  • Transfer of remains
  • Cremation
  • Interment
  • A casket or urn
  • A burial plot or cremation niche
  • Funeral services
  • A marker or headstone
  • Death-certificate expenses
  • Funeral-home staff fees

Although this is a list of commonly covered items, it isn’t exhaustive. If you have other funeral expenses, FEMA can help you determine if they qualify or not.

What’s Not Covered by the FEMA Funeral Assistance Program?

Not all funeral expenses qualify for the FEMA program. Here are a few things that you typically can’t seek reimbursement for:

  • Obituary fees
  • Flowers
  • Meal expenses or catering
  • Gratuities

If the funeral home you used offers a package rate, you’ll need to provide an itemized receipt. This way, FEMA can verify qualifying expenses.

Key Takeaways

  • FEMA provides financial assistance for funerals when deaths are related to a qualifying event, such as a declared disaster or COVID-19.
  • You can’t apply online for FEMA Funeral Assistance. You must call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance helpline at (844) 684-6333 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST.
  • FEMA reimburses up to $9,000 in qualifying expenses for each deceased individual and up to $35,500 per application.

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. FEMA. “FACT SHEET: Disaster Funeral Assistance in North Carolina.”

  2. FEMA. "I Was Responsible for Funeral Expenses for More Than One Person..."

  3. FEMA. "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Funeral Assistance.”

  4. FEMA. "Funeral Assistance FAQ: What Funeral Expenses Are Covered?

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