Breaking down FEMA COVID-19 funeral relief

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – FEMA is now accepting applications for COVID-19 funeral assistance, which can help relieve costs that can be hard on families.

“Especially as a bread winner, if you’re losing a bread winner, that puts you in a different position,” said Colleen Keen who lost her husband to COVID-19.

Keen and her husband, Ben, had four daughters together, two of whom still live at home.

“It’s a nice cushion, in other words, so I don’t have to rush into working and worrying about being a single mom and having to worry about the income,” Keen said.

Funeral director Preston McKee from Morris-Baker Funeral Home in Johnson City said funeral homes cannot apply for relief for families, but they can be a resource.

“We can also help provide them with digital copies of the documents FEMA requires for the application,” McKee said. “A funeral home can also assist you if the death certificate doesn’t have the required information, there is a process of amending a death certificate and a funeral home can help do that with a physician.”

According to the FEMA website, only one application per funeral can be submitted for reimbursement.

If several people help pay for expenses or you are waiting to hold a full service later, you need to include all of that paperwork together. Paperwork includes a death certificate listing COVID-19 as the cause of death, funeral expense documents, and proof of funds from other sources.

“FEMA encourages people not to apply until all their funeral expenses are incurred,” McKee said. “Some people may have had a simple cremation or simple burial during the pandemic because of safety. Well, if they wish to have a memorial service or some other kind of funeral event later, they can have that and combine the different costs into the same claim.”

Funeral expenses covered include a wide range, from the services, burial, and even the cost of getting certified death certificates.

According to the FEMA website, expenses that aren’t covered are those covered by benefits from funeral insurance and financial assistance from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources.

Funds will be sent out via mail or direct deposit. McKee encourages you to be patient when applying as this is a new program.

Right now, there is no deadline or cap on funding, so if you are waiting to hold a full service, you still have time to apply.

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