BALTIMORE — The federal government is paying for the funerals of Americans who died from COVID-19.
Thousands of Marylanders may qualify, however, only around half of those impacted in the state have applied.
There have been nearly 11,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in Maryland. So far, the federal government has received 5,778 applications for funeral assistance.
"A funeral is typically the fifth most expensive item in someone’s lifetime. It’s a car, a house, college, a wedding, and a funeral,” said Ed Michael Reggie, CEO of Funeralocity.
Funeralocity is a site that allows consumers to price compare funeral and cremation costs.
“The same service can be 6-7 times more costly in the same community. You’ll have a $600-700 direct cremation or $4,000-5,000 direct cremation,” Reggie said.
And these bills have become a harsh reality for families who suddenly lost loved ones during the pandemic. What many have yet to realize is there's a way to have them paid off by the FEMA.
“Reimbursement for their funeral services up to $9,000,” Reggie said.
That’s more than the average funeral cost, which is $7,700, according to Funeralocity. And Reggie added that there’s little red tape.
"By the time you make the call to the time you get money, it’s 3-4 weeks. It’s really a smooth process,” said Reggie.
The first step is to call FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333 from Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time. FEMA is not accepting online applications.
“You have to call. FEMA will not reach out, funeral homes will not reach out to you,” Reggie said.
A FEMA representative will ask for personal information of the deceased as well as the family member that covered the funeral costs. Then they’ll send a link requesting additional documentation.
“One is the death certificate that must show that COVID was a contributing factor in the death of their loved one and the second is a receipt from a licensed funeral provider,” said Reggie.
If COVID-19 isn’t listed on the death certificate, you may need to make additional calls.
“Some families are having to go back to the attending physician and have death certificates amended, or if the death certificate does not contain any cause of death, an attending physician letter accompanying the death certificate would be the way to get reimbursed,” said Reggie.
It’s a rich benefit, but many people are missing out. However, there’s still time to apply.
“There is no deadline set yet. There is no maximum amount of money appropriated, it’s a blank check. And it’s for all deaths that have taken place since January 20, 2020 rolling forward,” said Reggie.
This program also creates opportunities for scammers. If someone calls claiming to be from FEMA and requesting personal information, hang up. Family members need to make the call, FEMA won’t call you.
For more information on the program, click here.