Opelousas, LA, July 7, 2022 – Opelousas Daily World
Less than half of eligible Louisiana families have taken advantage of a FEMA program that reimburses funeral expenses up to $9,000 for a family member who died from COVID.
The program, which was created as part of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan last year, is open to any Louisiana residents who have paid for funeral expenses for a relative who died from COVID-19 since Jan. 20, 2020.
Of the 17,404 COVID deaths in Louisiana, just 8,621 of residents have applied for reimbursement. Of those, 6,446 have received compensation, amounting to nearly $45 million in reimbursements, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The rest of the country is seeing similarly low application rates to the program. Ed Michael Reggie, chief executive of Funeralocity, a website for families to compare funeral homes and cremation providers, said most people are unaware of the program.
“Maybe some of it is that people think it’s a lot of red tape and maybe that they won’t be able to qualify, but everything we’re seeing is that people are absolutely qualifying,” Reggie said. “FEMA is being very quick. About three to four weeks and these families are getting a check.”
Families don’t need to apply within a certain timeframe, meaning those who paid for a relative’s funeral in the early days of the pandemic are still eligible to receive compensation.
Those who apply for the program are required to show a death certificate and receipts for direct funeral expenses. COVID must be a contributing factor in the death. All are eligible for reimbursement no matter their income.
To apply for the program, families can go to fema.gov, where they will call a number to begin the application process.
“These overwhelmingly were unexpected deaths,” Reggie said. “We know that the American savings rate is not great, that people were already financially hit by COVID. This is very important that they get this money – so many of them need it.”
Reggie warned that people should be aware of scammers trying to get Social Security numbers by posing as funeral home workers or FEMA employees.
He said that those applying for reimbursement should go through FEMA only using the number listed on their website.Back to Media Center