What you need to know about FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral reimbursement program

HOUSTON – Houstonians who had to bury their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for reimbursement of funeral costs from FEMA.

FEMA will assist those families who paid for out-of-pocket funeral expenses during the pandemic, even if they had already applied to other disaster relief programs.

Assistance is available for up to $9,000 per individual funeral.

To be eligible for the assistance, individuals must submit the following:

  • Documentation of expenses such as receipts and contracts and must have the name of the individual requesting assistance. The total amount must be indicated in the application.
  • Death certificate that has the stated cause of death resulted as COVID-19.
  • Proof of funds used to pay for the expenses, including life insurance benefits and donations received.
  • Must have social security numbers, dates of birth and death of the deceased individual, death information such as location, and applicant information such as physical address and email.

The death must have occurred in the U.S. in order to be eligible for the funds.

On Tuesday, KPRC 2 spoke to a woman named Maria Pagan, whose mother, Elena Soltero-Garcia, died away from COVID-19 last year at the age of 90. The dear memories that Pagan has about her mother are marred by the fact she was forced to cremate her and was left with an $8,000 funeral bill.

“We didn’t have any life insurance for her,” Pagan said.

In addition to battling COVID-19 herself, Pagan lost her job because of the pandemic. After hearing about the new FEMA program reimbursing out-of-pocket expenses for COVID-19 funerals, Pagan tried to apply.

“Since yesterday I started about 7:59 a.m., I called about 20 times. You didn’t even get a ring it was just a straight busy signal,” Pagan said.

According to FEMA, high call volume is likely the issue, they’re asking applicants to be patient.

At Morales Funeral Home on Canal, staff members are helping eligible customers apply.

“Like anything it comes with questions, ‘am I eligible for this reason am I not eligible for that reason,’ so we decided to let them know and help break down the rules,” said Morales funeral home manager, Joe Morales.

To apply for assistance and to learn more about the program, click here.

About the Authors:

A graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, Ana moved to H-Town from sunny southern California in 2015. In 2020, she joined the KPRC 2 digital team as an intern. Ana is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, a catmom of 2, and an aquarium enthusiast. In her spare time, she's an avid video gamer and loves to travel.