INDIANAPOLIS — Funeral assistance for Hoosier families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 is still available.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency launched its COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program in April 2021.
Since then, data shows FEMA has awarded more than $2.5 billion to nearly 400,000 American individuals and families nationwide.
"Unfortunately, we have given out a lot of money to a lot of people across the country," said Dan Shulman, a FEMA representative for Region 5, which oversees Indiana.
Here in Indiana, 10,558 Hoosiers have applied for funeral assistance. Just over 8,000 of those families have been awarded.
"We've really only begun with this process," Shulman said. "We estimate that we've really only provided assistance to probably less than half of the eligible population."
The application process for funeral assistance starts over the phone with a FEMA representative by calling 844-684-6333.
This is a toll-free number available in numerous languages. The FEMA phone lines are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.
"This is a straightforward process," Shulman said. "It will take some time. While we can't bring their loved ones back, or their friends or family back, we can ease the burden of the passing of the people that they've lost."
The application process consists of three main aspects:
- The eligibility of the person, or persons, who paid for the funeral.
- The eligibility of the person who died.
- The documentation of funeral expenses.
FEMA can reimburse multiple people for a funeral through one person's application. Essentially, one person can apply, but the money is allowed to go to a group of people. That applicant must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
The person who applies must be able to prove COVID-19 was a cause of death or related to the cause of death. The person who died does not have to be a U.S. citizen.
Once the initial application phone call is made, applicants will set up an online profile to upload the required documents. Those papers can also be submitted by mail.
"There is no barrier here to asking for help," Shulman said.
Officials encourage all families who lost a loved one to the coronavirus to go ahead and apply for the financial assistance.
"The assistance is there. We tell people that you are not taking funds away from somebody else by calling in and asking for help. The funds are there to help people with these expenses," Shulman said.
If you have applied, but have not been helped yet, Shulman said to call and ask what is holding up your application. He said it may be something as simple as a missed phone call.