Many Nebraska families eligible for FEMA funeral assistance for COVID-19 deaths

For the first time in its history, FEMA is providing financial help to pay for funeral expenses for families who lost loved ones due to COVID.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 4:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For the first time in its history FEMA is providing financial help to pay for funeral expenses for families who lost loved ones due to COVID.

The government is providing the aid because the virus is taking so many lives. In the first year of the program, FEMA awarded more than $2 billion to more than 300,000 families.

There is no deadline to be eligible for reimbursement funds. The agency believes there are families that are eligible for the aid that haven’t yet applied.

During the height of the pandemic, Nebraska hospitals were crowded with patients infected with COVID. So far there have been more than 500,000 confirmed cases in the state. More than 4,000 of those patients died due to COVID.

The federal government is reaching out to help pay for COVID-related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.

“So I think it was a pretty important piece of legislation that gave families a nice piece of mind even though they’re going through a tragic loss, at least the financial component is something that could ease their mind,” said funeral director Bill Cutler IV with Heafey, Hoffman, Dworak and Cutler.

Cutler says applying for funeral aid is fairly simple.

“What they need is really just a death certificate that states the death was due to COVID, have to supply them a statement of goods and services from the funeral home that we provide them, and then just the proof of payment.”

But so far statistics show that nationwide and in Nebraska only about half of the families that might be eligible for the burial assistance have applied. And while the procees might be simple, it can take a long time.

“In the state of Nebraska, the death certificate process can take anywhere between a week, to two weeks, to 90 days, it all depends on the circumstance of the death. The process to get reimbursed could take anywhere between probably between three to nine months.”

Cutler says personal preference might be the reason many don’t apply for the funds, but a full reimbursement could cover the cost of the average funeral.

“It could help a lot. They are able to be reimbursed up to 9,000, so that’s very beneficial for the family.”

Families who have made pre-paid funeral arrangements do not qualify for the program.

For more information on FEMA’s funeral assistance program, you can call their helpline at 1-844-684-6333 Monday through Friday or visit their website.