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FEMA still offers reimbursement for COVID-19 funeral-related costs

FEMA states on its website it has given $2.3 billion to more than 351-thousand people to assist with COVID-19-related funeral costs for deaths occurring on or after January 20, 2020.

The assistance helped pay for the funerals of more than 369,000 people who died from COVID-19.

Riverside County Health has reported 6,448 total COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The figures may suggest that not everyone who is eligible for the FEMA reimbursement program has applied or completed their application.

Kerry Kemp of Bermuda Dunes and her family are among the millions of Americans that have lost a loved one during the global health crisis.

Kerry Kemp, Bermuda Dunes resident

Kemp's mother passed away from COVID-related complications in December 2020.

Her family applied and was approved for FEMA reimbursement to cover the cost of her mother's cremation, which "ran about $1,200", according to Kemp.

However, depending on what a family chooses, funeral and memorial services can cost thousands of dollars.

According to the The National Funeral Directors Association, the national average cost of a funeral in 2021 was $7,848. These services can run as high as $10,000 or more in cost. 

Kemp said it took roughly 3 months for her family to get reimbursed for the total cost of her mother's cremation.

She also said the application process itself wasn't too difficult, although her father did have to check back in with FEMA a couple times due to some clerical issues.

In order to qualify for FEMA reimbursement, the agency states on its website that a death certificate must list COVID-19 as the cause or contributing cause of death.

Maggie McMillan at Fitzhenry-Wiefels funeral services in Indio said she is "surprised how many families don’t know that it still applies."

"What we did originally is we put a lot of information on our website so that families could look at the process,” McMillan added.

Maggie McMillan, Fitzhenry-Wiefels

Despite having no affiliation with the federal program, McMillan said she has been getting questions about the application process from families seeking the proper documents to fill out their application through FEMA.

The head of FEMA has said in previous media interviews that there are safeguards in place to prevent fraud. 

For more information on the program and details on the requirements to apply visit FEMA's website.

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3

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