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Portage County family hopes to take advantage of FEMA COVID-19 funeral assistance program

FEMA reimbursing families up to $9,000 for each victim
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Donald Basham Jr.
Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 18:32:00-04

HIRAM, Ohio — Starting Monday, FEMA will begin accepting applications for its COVID-19 funeral assistance program.

The agency will reimburse families up to $9,000 for the funeral and burial expenses of loved ones who died from COVID-19.

Melissa Thompson, of Hiram, said her family plans to apply for that program. Her dad, Donald Basham Jr., died in early January after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19.

Donald Basham Jr.
Donald Basham Jr.

The loss was devastating to Thompson and her family.

“Everybody who knew him, knew him as the happy life of the party man,” Thompson said. “You don't have time to mentally, physically, emotionally prepare for any of these things that are happening. And then to just have to say goodbye overnight is — it's truly the worst experience of my life.”

Thompson said planning his funeral arrangements only added to her family’s grief and stress.

“Just hoping that the money could be scraped together to cover the funeral expenses, because at that point, we were so fresh with this idea that we didn't know what was going to be covered,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s family and others will be able to apply for the FEMA program for help recouping some of those unexpected costs.

Families will be eligible for up to $9,000 per funeral, and a maximum of $35,500 per application. Applicants may apply for multiple deceased people.

To be eligible for funeral assistance, applicants must meet these conditions:

  • The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

Applicants should also gather documentation relating to the death:

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened.
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

“Oh gosh, that's like a no-brainer to me, I mean, it's awesome,” Marcella Boyd Cox, the funeral home director at E.F. Boyd & Son Funeral Home in Cleveland, said.

She said the money will greatly help families with oftentimes very costly services.

“Cremation of course is going to be the least expensive, and then it can range up to $9,000, $10,000 depending,” Cox said. “This is going to be quite a relief for them.”

That’s true for Thompson, who gave her stepmother all the information for the FEMA program so she’s ready to call and apply on Monday.

“Coming up with thousands of thousands of dollars is I mean, it's not in my budget,” Thompson said. “It just makes it a little bit easier to know that that money can be utilized for something else that's important for the household.”

FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral assistance program call center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. central time Monday through Friday starting Monday Apr. 12.

Anyone interested in applying for the program should call 844-684-6333.

More information can be found here.

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