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The government will help pay for funerals for those killed by COVID-19. Here's how to apply.

There is funding available to help pay for the funerals of people who have died of COVID-19.The program will reimburse costs up to $9,000 per funeral. [Lucian Coman / Shutterstock]
Clergy stands over a casket at a funeral.

The federal government will help pay some funeral costs of those killed by COVID-19 but an Ideastream analysis of FEMA data shows many Ohioans are not receiving this assistance.

The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program will reimburse costs up to $9,000 per funeral. Less than a third of funerals for Ohioans killed by the virus were paid for with the help of these federal dollars, according to the review of the data.

As of Sunday, 35,005 Ohioans, including 2,730 people in Cuyahoga County, have died from the disease, but only 10,779 people statewide had received funeral assistance payments as of Feb. 7 , FEMA figures show.

If your family is among the thousands who paid for the funeral of a loved-one killed by COVID-19 it is not too late to apply. There is no deadline, but you do have to provide the government with the official death certificate and, in some cases, further documentation that shows your loved-one died of the virus, according to FEMA. The death must have occurred in the U.S. to qualify for assistance.

Death certificates are needed to claim the funds

If the death certificate was issued between Jan. 20 and May 16, 2020, you need the official death certificate and, if it doesn’t attribute the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19, an additional statement from the original certifier or the local medical examiner that lists COVID-19 as a cause or contributing cause of death. That signed statement must also provide an additional explanation linking the cause of death listed on the death certificate to COVID-19.

If the death certificate was created on May 17, 2020 or after, it must attribute the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19.

Ohio is among the top 10 states both in the number of people who have received help paying for funerals and in the amount of money dispersed to cover burial expenses, according to FEMA figures.

As of Feb. 7, FEMA  awarded more nearly $1.8 billion nationally, of that $69.9 million was awarded to Ohioans.

How to start:

Call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 855-684-6333 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. eastern time to start your application. The call will take about 20 minutes, and you can ask questions and get help with the application process. They’ll also give you a FEMA application number.

Then you’ll be asked to submit the required documents. You can either upload the documents at DisasterAssistance.gov or by fax at 855-261-3452 or by mail at P.O. Box 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782.

Funeral costs are not insignificant. Full-service funerals cost between about $3,000 and $9,400 in 2020 and 2021, according to a survey by the Cleveland Memorial Society.

You can receive funeral assistance to cover the following expenses:

  • Funeral services
  • Cremation
  • Interment
  • 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
  • Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
  • Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances
Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.