FEMA Overwhelmed With Burial Aid Applications

NEW YORK -
Members of the U.S. Air Force at a FEMA mass vaccination site in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The FEMA hotline to request financial reimbursement for funeral reimbursements was overwhelmed with requests when it became operational Monday.

“We ask that applicants be patient as we work to correct these issues and have all their important documents ready when they call to apply,” a FEMA representative said. “Please know there is no deadline to apply and applicants will have the ability to open a case.”

The agency is offering up to $9,000 towards the costs of burying a loved one who died of the coronavirus, so long as the person died in the United States and his or her death certificate cited Covid as the cause of death. Covered expenses can include the burial plot, the casket, religious services, and the headstone.

The hotline, 844-684-6333, endured technical issues and busy signals but managed to receive “thousands of calls” a FEMA representative told ABC 7 NY.

FEMA opted to use a hotline instead of an online application due to the intense nature of the program.

Acting Administrator Robert Fento said, “Right now, our focus is empathy when we talk about individuals that have lost loved ones. We want to make sure that we do it in an empathetic way. We think that again with empathy being the priority, we want to be able to case manage and have that human-to-human interaction as we do this.”

The federal agency has previously assisted with funeral aid after disasters, but nothing on this scale before. The $1.9 trillion federal aid package included $50 billion for FEMA’s Covid-related costs and $2 billion for burial costs.

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smarcus@hamodia.com