Sunday, January 23, 2022

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COVID-19 funeral assistance available through FEMA

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief across the nation. Since March 2020, there have been over 2,400 deaths in South Dakota. Despite the daily COVID-related death rate being half of what it was in 2020, the total COVID-related deaths in our state have steadily increased since March 2020. While the Omicron variant is not as severe as its predecessors, those with pre-existing health issues are still vulnerable to hospitalization and ongoing life-threatening conditions.

Death not only brings tremendous grief to South Dakota communities but also financial burden. The average cost for a funeral is between $7,000-10,000. Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA provides financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred on or after January 20, 2020.

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance

Based on data released on January 3, 2022, FEMA has provided over $1.6 billion to more than 247,000 people to assist with COVID-19-related funeral costs for deaths occurring on or after Jan. 20, 2020. In South Dakota, 862 individuals have contacted FEMA for assistance and 618 individuals have received awards. The total amount awarded to those individuals in South Dakota is $4,496,637.

While COVID-19 Funeral Assistance can be processed as a reimbursement, applicants are not required to pay for funeral expenses prior to receiving assistance. Applicants must provide FEMA with a signed funeral home contract, invoice, or similar legal documentation that shows the individual incurred COVID-19-related funeral expenses on or after January 20, 2020.

Online applications are not accepted.  Applicants may apply by calling 844-684-6333 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. Multilingual services are available. Please note, phone calls from FEMA may come from an unidentified number. Applicants who use a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, should give FEMA the number for that service.

The call will take about 20 minutes to apply. You can ask questions and receive the help you need with the application process as well as referral information for grief support.

Once you have applied for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance and received your FEMA application number, you will then submit the required documentation to FEMA through their website as upload, fax, or mail.

Required Documentation

You must provide a copy of the following according to FEMA guidelines:

Official death certificate that shows the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and District of Columbia.

If the death certificate was issued between January 20-May 16, 2020, it must either 1) attribute the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19; or 2) be accompanied by a signed statement from the original certifier of the death certificate or the local medical examiner or coroner from the jurisdiction in which the death occurred listing COVID-19 as a cause or contributing cause of death. This signed statement must provide an additional explanation, or causal pathway, linking the cause of death listed on the death certificate to COVID-19.

If the death certificate occurred on or after May 17, 2020, the death certificate must attribute the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19.

Documentation for funeral expenses (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes your name as an individual responsible for the expenses, the deceased individual’s name, itemized funeral expenses, and proof that funeral expenses were incurred on or after January 20, 2020.

Proof of funds received from other sources specifically designated for funeral costs. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance may not duplicate burial or funeral insurance proceeds, pre-planned or pre-paid funeral contracts, pre-paid trust for funeral expenses, irrevocable trust for Medicaid, financial assistance from voluntary organizations, government programs or agencies, or any other sources specifically designated for funeral expenses. Any eligible COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will be reduced by the amount of other assistance you received for the same expenses.

However, life insurance proceeds are not considered a duplication of COVID-19 Funeral Assistance benefits.

If you are eligible for funeral assistance, you will receive funds by direct deposit or a check by mail, depending on which option you chose when you applied for assistance.

The application process begins with a phone call – 844-684-6333 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

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