FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Expense Reimbursement Program: What You Need To Know

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A new program is allowing those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 to pursue compensation for funeral expenses. Learn how you may qualify for money through this program as well as other benefits — such as military funeral services for veterans who died from mesothelioma or other illnesses.

The FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Expense Program Explained

The COVID-19 Funeral Expense Program was established in April of 2021 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The program was created to help defray the costs of unexpected funerals for Americans who lost a loved one due to COVID-19.

Although the program is available to all Americans, it can be especially helpful for the family of veterans. For example, it can help families who were already under financial strain due to a veteran suffering from an existing health condition (such as mesothelioma) stay secure.

Mesothelioma is an extremely dangerous cancer that often affects the lung lining — and a secondary infection of COVID-19 can be deadly for many with the disease.

The funeral expenses program also allows families to cover expenses that are not covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA has its own, separate burial benefits program. Further, families may be able to access both FEMA COVID-19 benefits and VA funeral benefits in certain cases.

What Makes the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Program Unique?

The program is unique because it was created to help Americans weather the unexpected costs of funerals during a pandemic. The coronavirus has brought unprecedented challenges to everyone, and the FEMA COVID-19 funeral program is designed to help ease the burden in a number of ways.

It can cover:

  • A casket or urn
  • Burial plot or cremation niche
  • Clergy or other services
  • Costs of creating or certifying multiple death certificates
  • Cremation or burial costs
  • Extra expenses due to local or state laws
  • Funeral arrangement costs, such as funeral staff or equipment
  • Headstones and markers
  • Other expenses

Applicants can also be reimbursed for multiple funerals if more than one loved one passed away from COVID-19. At this time there is no deadline to file a claim and there is not a set limit on the program’s funding given the ever-changing nature of COVID-19.

The program is unique for families of veterans because it is independent from the VA itself, allowing families to pursue benefits from both sources.

FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Program vs. VA Burial Benefits

The VA burial benefits program has some important differences from the FEMA COVID-19 funeral program. The VA burial and funeral benefits are more narrow in scope, but they are still very helpful to families of veterans.

They cover:

  • Burial flags
  • Costs of the burial and funeral
  • Military headstones
  • Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMCs)
  • The cost of the actual burial plot
  • Transportation costs for the veteran’s remains
  • VA medallions

An important difference to note is the costs associated with the benefits. The VA pays $1,500-$2,000 per funeral, whereas the FEMA program covers up to $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 in cases where one person is responsible for multiple funerals.

Veterans’ families can apply for VA funeral benefits online or by mail. Unlike the FEMA claims, families must file for VA benefits within two years after the veteran is buried or cremated if the veteran didn’t die from a service-related injury. If they did die from a condition related to their military service (like mesothelioma) the time limit is waived.

Apply For the FEMA Reimbursement or VA Funeral Benefits Today

To apply for the FEMA plan, you can call 844-684-6333 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday-Friday to apply. There is currently no online application, but that may change in the future.

After calling, you will then need to submit supporting documents for your claim either online, by mail, or by fax. You can learn more about this process on the official FEMA website.

Our team can help you apply for VA funeral benefits and other types of military benefits if you or a loved one passed away from mesothelioma. See if your family can file for VA benefits right now — you can get help from fellow veterans who are accredited through the VA.

FAQs About the FEMA Reimbursement Program

Have more questions about how the FEMA Funeral Expense Reimbursement Program works? Here are some commonly asked questions that we can help you with.

Can the FEMA program pay for expenses not covered by the VA?

Yes. According to the VA: “FEMA’s program can be used to reimburse a family for funeral-related expenses that VA doesn’t cover, such as the cost of the casket or urn, clergy fees and funeral home fees.”

Can I access the FEMA program if my loved one died from mesothelioma?

No, the FEMA program is only for those who died due to COVID-19.

However, the family of veterans who died from mesothelioma can pursue military benefits, including funeral honors and compensation for the burial, through the VA.

Need help filing for VA benefits?

VA-Accredited Attorney Eric Hall (Major USAFR) can help you file for free.

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Who can apply for the FEMA COVID-19 funeral reimbursement?

If your loved one passed away due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for a FEMA COVID-19 funeral reimbursement. You can apply if you are an individual who has funeral expenses. You can choose to get the compensation by check or direct deposit once you have successfully applied.

COVID-19 has presented an unimaginable hardship for American families. You don’t have to go through this process without any assistance.

You may be eligible for benefits from the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Reimbursement Program or the VA’s Burial Benefits program. Contact our team to learn more about your eligibility today.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. “Details on FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Expense Reimbursement Program.” VAntage Point, 23 Apr. 2021, blogs.va.gov/VAntage/87667/details-femas-covid-19-funeral-expense-reimbursement-program/.
  2. “Funeral Assistance FAQ.” FEMA.gov, www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq.
  3. “How to Apply for a Veterans Burial Allowance:” Veterans Affairs, www.va.gov/burials-memorials/veterans-burial-allowance/.