FEMA to reimburse families for COVID-19 funeral expenses

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FEMA is offering financial assistance of up to $9,000 to cover funeral expenses for COVID-19-related deaths. (WYDaily/Courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — Families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 may soon not have to face the burden of funerary expenses. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began accepting applications on Monday, April 12 to help families cover up to $9,000 in funeral costs for those who died from COVID-19 after January 20, 2020.

The costs will “help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the pandemic,” stated the Virginia Department of Emergency Management in a press release.

FEMA launched a hotline on Monday (844-684-6333) for residents to apply for assistance.

The Virginia Department of Health reports that over 10,400 Virginians have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since March 2020.

The funeral industry has seen higher demand for their services over the past year. 

Amory Funeral Home, located at 410 Grafton Dr. in Yorktown, has had more than 20 calls related to COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started, said Mike Hines, Amory Funeral Home manager.

“When this first started, we were limited to the number of people who could come to funerals,” he said. “So we would place the body in the chapel, open the door and tell family members to come and go as they please. We weren’t counting people.” 

At Amory, funeral services with the inclusion of cremation can cost up to $5,500, while funerals with viewing, burial services and caskets can cost up to $7,500.

Hines said that he was “shocked” when he learned that FEMA was offering up to $9,000 in assistance.

Meanwhile, Nelsen Funeral Home, located at 3785 Strawberry Plains Rd in Williamsburg, has been contacting the families they’ve served since last January in order to alert them that they’re sending through the mail information about FEMA’s application process, said Jeffrey Frucht, Nelsen Funeral Home manager. 

James City County has partnered with Nelsen Funeral Home in Williamsburg to cremate unclaimed remains for just under $700. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
An average funeral cost at homes, such as Nelsen Funeral Home in Williamsburg, is around $8,000. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

At Nelsen, the average funeral costs, including viewing and burial services, is around $8,000.

FEMA’s funding will also cover burial plots, the transfer of remains, cremations and headstones. Transferring of remains can cost up to $3,000, while headstones can cost somewhere around $1,000.

To qualify for the assistance program, FEMA said that the applicant must be a “U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020, for a death attributed to COVID-19.”

The death also must have occurred in the United States or U.S. territories, and the death certificate must indicate that cause was attributed directly or indirectly to COVID-19.

The news release also indicates that covered expenses do not include those that are prepaid, such as the purchase of a plot, which typically costs around $4,000.

While many Virginia residents have had to face losing their loved ones due to the pandemic, families will soon get some reimbursement for their unexpected financial costs.

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