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Up to $9,000 is available to help cover funeral expenses for those who died from COVID-19


If you have a family member who died due to COVID-19, you might be eligible for federal financial assistance up to $9,000 to help cover funeral expenses. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials want people to know that money remains available.

FEMA public information officer Veronica Verde is based out of California. But for the last year, she's been working in Hawaiʻi to help with the pandemic response.

Of the more than 1,000 people who died from COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi, fewer than half of families have applied for help, Verde said.

"We have currently about 457 applications. We've awarded about 236 applications with $1.4 million out in the street for individuals," Verde told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "We want to see an increase, especially for people that have paid out of pocket for funeral expenses. Please know that this is available to individuals and families."

Expenses covered under the FEMA program include funeral services, cremation and interment, as well as the costs for caskets or urns, burial plots or cremation niches, markers or headstones, transportation or transfer of remains, clergy or officiant services, and the use of funeral home equipment or staff.

To be eligible for reimbursement, death certificates must indicate that the death was attributed "directly or indirectly to COVID-19."

For deaths that occurred in the early months of the pandemic, certificates can be accompanied by a signed statement from a medical examiner, coroner, or the certifying official indicating that COVID-19 was "a cause or contributing cause of death."

The program is funded using federal stimulus funds. To apply for funeral assistance, you must call 844-684-6333 to get started. No online applications are allowed.

Go to fema.gov for more information. This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 27, 2021. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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