ANDERSON — Beginning April 12, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will start accepting claims for reimbursement of funeral expenses for people who died of COVID-19 or for whom COVID-19 contributed to their death.
“They did not have to die of COVID — maybe they had a recent COVID infection that prompted heart failure or something similar that would be a consequence of that,” said Dr. Troy Abbott, Madison County coroner.
“Maybe they had a blood clot,” he said. “Because the COVID virus likes to make the blood clot, that could be a possible scenario, too, that needs to be added to the death certificate. That’s very reasonable to have added on.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people didn’t want COVID-19 put on their loved one’s death certificate, said Rob Loose, president of Loose Funeral Homes & Crematory.
“If they know that they had been diagnosed with COVID or even symptoms of COVID, the doctor could reamend the death certificate,” Loose said.
According to FEMA’s funeral assistance website, the process to amend a death certificate starts by contacting the person who certified it.
Expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020, qualify. There currently is no end date for the program.
“We’re going basically through all of our death certificates to see what ones did have something about COVID or related to COVID and notifying families,” Loose said.
FEMA will pay up to $9,000 per funeral or $35,000 per applicant if they paid for multiple funerals, but they will not pay for any portion of the bill covered by funeral insurance or other benefit.
“Say, for instance, you’ve got a $3,000 benefit and you’ve spent $9,000. You could file for the $6,000 in between,” Loose said.
If multiple people helped pay for the funeral they will need to file together under one application with one person as the applicant.
“You need to make sure that everybody puts their information in regard to what they paid and those kinds of things, and that will actually be on the funeral bill,” Loose said.
“So when they do get the refund then everything can go back to the right people, but only one person can file.”
A dedicated call center will open on April 12 to file claims and will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time. The number to call is 844-684-6333.
“The most important thing that they really stressed upon in these webinars that I participated in is have all of your paperwork together all at once,” Loose said.
If you expect a future expense such as a grave marker or waiting to hold a memorial after pandemic restrictions have lifted, Loose advises you wait until after you have a receipt to file.
A fraud alert on FEMA’s funeral assistance website warns that there have been reports of scammers calling and offering to register people for the assistance. FEMA will not contact anyone who hasn’t first contacted them to apply for assistance.