U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez formally launched the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) hotline, to help pay for the funeral and burial of COVID-hit families. Schumer and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez explained how New York families can apply for these dollars and the items they need to submit to FEMA.
Schumer and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said that families across New York, particularly those in communities of color and low-income communities like Corona, Queens, which was the epicenter of the crisis early on, have already paid the ultimate price amid the pandemic and that these special FEMA funds will help alleviate some of the pain in being unable to afford or give a proper burial and funeral to a loved one.
“Too many families and friends across New York have paid the ultimate price with the tragic loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus. The economic upheaval and added financial strain of this pandemic makes the added cost of funerals and burials unbearable for so many who have already lost so much. This historic use of FEMA’s funeral assistance program is much needed aid to those who need it most, and that is why Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and I worked so hard to deliver this with FEMA—and we got it done. Now that the details are finalized and the hotline LIVE, we are working to get the word out, to make sure eligible families know to submit an application, how to prepare, and that help is available through a dedicated 800 number,” said Sen. Schumer.
“This effort began over a year ago when community leaders in NY-14 flagged the disparate impact of COVID-19 in working-class areas, compounded with the devastating economic impact of funeral expenses. I’m so relieved that soon our families will finally be able to access relief, and I’m grateful to FEMA for working with Senator Schumer and I to make this program inclusive, generous and easily accessible,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.
Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez also explained that they were able to increase the maximum financial assistance to $9,000 per funeral and that the hotline to apply for fed funds is: 844-684-6333. Additionally, FEMA will only award COVID-19 Funeral Assistance for a deceased individual on a single application. If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should register under a single application as applicant and co-applicant. The applicant or co-applicant must have incurred the funeral expenses. The deceased individual’s documentation status is not considered as part of the reimbursement process, but the applicant(s) must be U.S. citizens, legal residents, asylees, refugees, or non-citizen nationals.
Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez explained that now is the time for families to decide who the applicant and any co-applicants will be and to gather the documents they need to be reimbursed for expenses.
Specifically, the applicant must provide the following documents:
1) a copy of the death certificate. The death certificate must indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are also considered sufficient.
2) proof of funeral expenses incurred. Documentation (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) must include the applicant’s name as the responsible person for the expense, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and that funeral expenses were incurred after January 20, 2020.
Eligible funeral expenses include but are not limited to:
· Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
· Transfer of remains
· Casket or urn
· Burial plot or cremation niche
· Marker or headstone
· Clergy or officiant services
· Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
· Use of funeral home equipment or staff
· Cremation or interment costs
· Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
· Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances.
It is important to coordinate with friends, family members, and anyone else who incurred an expense on who will submit the claim. FEMA will only accept one claim per deceased individual so it is vitally important everyone who helped cover the funeral and cemetery expenses work together on one application and wait until all the expenses have been incurred.
If applicants already received reimbursement for certain funeral expenses through government agencies, voluntary agencies, non-profits, burial or funeral insurance, they cannot resubmit those same expenses for reimbursement through this FEMA-administered program. If you received any outside assistance, you must include documentation of this assistance in your application. If you received financial assistance through the deceased’s life insurance policy, you may still apply for reimbursement.
Sen. Schumer and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez have worked closely with FEMA to develop the funeral assistance program, after establishing and extending it through the December and March COVID-19 relief packages. The two lawmakers also worked to ensure FEMA provided support in a myriad of languages so that callers across New York have the option to speak to someone fluent in their language who can help them navigate this critical relief.