COVID funeral reimbursement now $9,000. Here's how to apply today

If your relative passed away from the coronavirus, the government may help pay funeral and burial costs. Here's what the application process looks like and how to get started.

Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
Expertise Home Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacks Credentials
  • National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Alison DeNisco Rayome
6 min read

The US government has increased your reimbursement rate for funerals caused by COVID-19 from $7,000 to $9,000.

Gabriela Tulian/Getty Images

If a relative of yours died from COVID-19, you may be able to get reimbursed up to $9,000 for funeral expenses. That's $2,000 more per person than the $7,000 upper limit announced in February. Starting this week, the Federal Emergency Management Administration began accepting applications from eligible families. 

The FEMA measure was part of the December COVID-19 relief law, which also included a second stimulus check of up to $600. The law includes $2 billion for people who have been harmed by the pandemic and may have gone into debt to pay for the funeral and burial of a loved one. 

Here's everything we know so far about the funeral reimbursement funds, including who is eligible and how to apply. For other COVID and stimulus money matters, here's what to know about stimulus check plus-up payments, the monthly child tax credit starting in July (see our child credit FAQ). This is the latest on student loan debt forgiveness, a fourth stimulus check and how to save money on health care.

Who can apply to get reimbursed for COVID-19 related funeral expenses?

You can apply for COVID-19 related funeral reimbursement if you meet the following criteria, according to FEMA:

  • The death must have occurred in the US, including the US territories and the District of Columbia.
  • The funeral costs were incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.
  • The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
  • The applicant must be a US citizen, noncitizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a US citizen, noncitizen national or qualified alien.
  • There is no income requirement.

How much money can you get reimbursed?

FEMA's website says it will reimburse families up to $9,000 for COVID-related funeral and burial costs. It isn't yet clear what factors will determine who is able to receive the full amount, or a portion of the available funds. 

In 2019, the median national cost of a funeral with a viewing and a burial was $7,640, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. If a vault or casket is included (which is often required by a cemetery), the median cost went up to $9,135. And that doesn't take into account cemetery, monument or headstone costs -- or miscellaneous cash-advance charges, such as flowers or an obituary fee -- the NFDA noted.

What funeral expenses will FEMA reimburse?

The program will reimburse expenses for funeral services such as: 

  • Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
  • Transfer of remains
  • Casket or urn
  • Burial plot or cremation niche
  • Marker or headstone
  • Clergy or officiant services
  • Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
  • Use of funeral home equipment or staff
  • Cremation or interment costs
  • Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
  • Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances

Can I get reimbursed for more than one family member?

If you were responsible for funeral expenses for more than one family member whose death was attributed to COVID-19, you can apply to receive assistance for multiple deceased individuals, according to FEMA. Reimbursement is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory or the District of Columbia.

What kind of information will you need to apply? 

Before calling to apply, FEMA recommends gathering the following documentation, which you will need:

  • Social Security number for the applicant and the deceased individual
  • Date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual
  • Current mailing address for the applicant
  • Current telephone number for the applicant
  • Location or address where the deceased individual died
  • Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
  • Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations
  • CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
  • Routing and account number of the applicant's checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested)

You'll also need:

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the US, including the US territories and the District of Columbia. (You can get one by contacting the state or locality's vital records office. Sometimes a funeral home or third-party provider can also request this for you.)
  • Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that include the applicant's name, the deceased person's name, the amount of funeral expenses and the dates the funeral expenses happened.
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA is not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources. (Life insurance proceeds are not considered a duplication of Funeral Assistance benefits.)
Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you'll get

How to apply for COVID-19 funeral reimbursement funds

To apply for up to $9,000 in funeral reimbursement money from FEMA, first gather the documentation listed above. Then, call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line at 844-684-6333. Note that FEMA is receiving lots of calls, causing technical issues -- if you get a busy signal, try calling again later. 

Once you get through, it should take about 20 minutes to apply over the phone. You'll be given an application number and asked to provide documentation to FEMA by either: 

  • Uploading files to your DisasterAssistance.gov account
  • Faxing documents to 855-261-3452.
  • Mailing documents to P.O. Box 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782

Is there a deadline to apply for COVID-19 funeral reimbursement money?

At this point, there is no deadline to apply for the funds. FEMA will announce one once it is established, according to its website.

How will my reimbursement funds arrive?

If your application is approved, you'll receive a check by mail or direct deposit, depending on which option you chose during the application process. FEMA did not indicate how long it will take to get those funds.

Has FEMA ever done something like this before? 

Yes. Under the Stafford Act, FEMA can offer help with funeral costs if the deaths were caused by a presidentially declared disaster. This was the case after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. After three hurricanes hit Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico in 2017, FEMA paid about $2.6 million in response to 976 approved applications for related funeral expenses, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is on a far larger scale than anything FEMA has provided assistance for in the past, a spokesperson told CBS in December. The agency had then already provided more than $56.2 billion in the fight against the pandemic, the spokesperson said. 

"We understand the financial and emotional turmoil COVID-19 has brought to our nation, and we are committed to bringing funeral assistance to the American people as quickly as possible," a FEMA spokesperson said. "We are working to streamline the delivery of this program to make it easier for people who lost loved ones to apply for and receive assistance. It's taking some time to develop the right process and tools to make this program easy, efficient and effective for everyone." 

Watch out for scams

Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission reported scammers are targeting the survivors of those who died of COVID-19 by pretending to be from FEMA and offering to pay for funeral expenses. You should know that FEMA will not contact you directly unless you've already contacted the agency or applied for assistance. Further, the government won't ask you to pay anything to get reimbursement. It also won't call, text, email or contact you on social media and ask for personal information like your Social Security number, bank or credit card information. 

The FTC also warned people not to give any information about yourself or relatives to anyone who contacts you out of the blue, as it's likely a scam. If a caller claims to be from FEMA and you are suspicious they are a scammer, you should hang up and report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

For more, check out everything to know about a potential fourth stimulus check and what to know about the COVID-19 vaccine.