By Hannah Lester
The year 2020 was a thief. A thief of time, memories, experiences and life. Many, both nationally and in the Lee County community, were left with the burden of planning funerals for loved ones.
But, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will now provide assistance to those who incurred funeral expenses in 2020 and 2021.
“At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton, in a FEMA press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”
The financial assistance through FEMA was included in the American Rescue Plan that was approved on March 11, and was also approved under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.
The assistance took effect April 12, but will provide retroactive relief for expenses that occurred after Jan. 20, 2020, the release said.
“Additional guidance is being finalized and will be released to potential applicants and community partners as soon as possible,” the FEMA website said. “In the meantime, people who have COVID-19 funeral expenses are encouraged to keep and gather documentation.”
The necessary documentation includes an official death certificate, funeral expenses documents and proof of funds received from other sources, the release said.
Additionally, to receive funds, the death must have occurred in the United States, which includes the U.S. territories and District of Columbia. The death certificate must show the death was COVID-19 related
If you are requesting funds, you must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien, as of Jan. 20, 2020, the site said. However, the deceased does not need to have been a citizen.
“If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should apply under a single application as applicant and co-applicant,” the release said. “FEMA will also consider documentation from other individuals not listed as the applicant and co-applicant who have incurred funeral expenses as part of the registration for the deceased individual.”
Funding is limited to $9,000 per funeral, the release said, and a total of $35,000 per applicant, meaning applicants can apply for funding for more than one deceased.
To apply for funding, call 884-684-6333 anytime Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning April 12.