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Too many American families have not only faced the ravages of COVID-19, they have also ended up needing to pay unexpected funeral expenses.

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.

The person who paid the funeral expenses can be reimbursed through this new program.

The process for making a claim for funeral assistance funds from FEMA starts by calling a toll-free number. The general number is 844–684–6333. The TTY number is 800–462–7585.

The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Information for the funeral assistance application will be taken on the phone, and all follow up will be available through FEMA staff.

Sad to say, scammers have been contacting people and claiming to be able to help them get funeral assistance. Instead, their purpose is to cheat those needing reimbursement, and no money will be provided through the scammers. Only FEMA can handle these claims.

To be eligible for funeral assistance, the death must have occurred in the United States, and the death certificate must indicate COVID-19 as a direct or indirect cause of death.

The official death certificate and documents proving the amounts spent must be made available to FEMA.

The individual making the claim must have paid the funeral and burial/cremation expenses with their own funds. A maximum of $9,000 per death can be reimbursed through this program.

FEMA assistance cannot duplicate benefits received from prepaid funeral contracts, from burial or funeral insurance policies, or from financial assistance received from government agencies, voluntary agencies, or other sources.

However, proceeds from a life insurance policy which were used to pay for funeral or burial/cremation costs can be reimbursed.

Those approved for reimbursement of funeral expenses will either receive a check in the mail or a direct deposit into a financial account.

More information can be found at the fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance website.

Answers to inquiries about the funeral assistance benefits or other legal issues is available at no charge from West Virginia Senior Legal Aid for state residents, age 60 and over. Call 800–229–5068 for assistance from the staff attorney.

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