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Not enough Americans taking advantage of government assistance to pay COVID-19 funeral costs

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Activists gather during a vigil at Lafayette Park for nurses who died during the COVID-19 pandemic on January 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The federal government has provided more than $2 billion to help cover funeral costs for more than 300,000 families of people who have died of COVID-19, but not enough people know about access to funding or have asked for help .

According to a report by Kaiser Health News, less than half of eligible families have even started their claims to cover funeral expenses, which has been expected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since April 2021.

On average, families who received funding got an average of $6,500, but many families are still unaware that the money is still available.

To address this issue, FEMA announced in March that it was launching a new awareness campaign on helping eligible families.

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The number of people killed by COVID-19 in the United States has reached 1 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University on May 18.

While the average amount awarded per death is $6,500, according to FEMA, the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program provides up to $9,000 per funeral and covers COVID-19 related deaths since January 20, 2020. .

“FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program has helped provide more than 300,000 people with essential financial assistance during a time of such unexpected, unimaginable and widespread loss,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, in a statement.

The agency has already launched a new paid ad campaign in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, targeted at areas with high COVID-19 death rates but lower claim rates for help connect people to available support. The agency also reaches out to community groups and local media to help publicize the program.

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“Our new awareness campaign is designed to reach families, especially in underserved communities, where the cost of funerals can be a financial burden on a loved one,” Criswell said. “Our goal is to help families apply for assistance, as well as submit all required documents for existing applications.”

How to receive the funds?

To be eligible for reimbursement, death certificates of individuals who died after May 16, 2020 must indicate that the death was attributed to COVID-19.

For deaths occurring during the early months of the pandemic – January 20 to May 16, 2020 – death certificates must be accompanied by a signed statement from a medical examiner, coroner or the designated certifying officer on the certificate indicating that COVID-19 was the cause or a contributing cause of death.

What do the funds cover?

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Expenses covered by the FEMA program include funeral services, cremation and burial, as well as the costs of caskets or urns, burial plots or cremation niches, markers or headstones, transportation or transfer remains, the services of clergy or officiants and the use of funeral services. household equipment or staff.

The program was first enacted in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration, but began accepting applications weeks into President Joe Biden’s tenure. The initial bill provided for 2 billion dollars for funeral assistance, exhausted in recent days. Funding going forward will come from Biden’s 2021 relief bill, known as the “US bailout.”

How to register?

FEMA does not accept online applications for the reimbursement program. Eligible individuals are encouraged to call the agency’s helpline at 844-684-6333, where they will be asked to submit the required documents.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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