Skip to main content

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program

Authored By: Pro Bono Net

Appeal Your FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program Decision

Highlights 

  • In March 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program, a program to help pay funeral costs for COVID-19-related deaths. Learn more here
  • In April 2021, FEMA began accepting applications for financial assistance for COVID-19 funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.
  • In June 2021, FEMA amended the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Policy to allow applicants to submit a statement or letter that attributes the death to COVID-19 deaths that occurred between January 20, 2020 and May 16, 2020. Learn more here
  • At this time, there is no deadline to apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance and those who are eligible are encouraged to apply. Please check this page for updates. 

How To Apply to the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program 

  • To apply, you must call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333, TTY: 800-462-7585. There is no online application. 
  • The hotline operates Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time. 
  • For additional information on the application process and eligibility, you can visit FEMA's official page here or watch this YouTube video. You can also visit FEMA's Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program here

Frequently Asked Questions About the Appeals Process 

If you have received a letter from FEMA saying that you are ineligible for the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program or the amount awarded is not enough, you have the right to appeal FEMA's decision within 60 days of FEMA's decision letter. An appeal is a written request to review your file again with additional information you provide that may affect FEMA's decision. 

Please see below our Frequently Asked Questions for an overview of the appeals process and other very important information to help you prepare your COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program appeal.

CAN THIS SITE HELP ME WITH A FEMA APPLICATION COVID-19 FUNERAL ASSISTANCE APPLICATION?

No. To apply, you have to call the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585. The Hours of Operation are Monday - Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

WHAT IS THE DEADLINE FOR FILING AN APPEAL?

Your appeal letter must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of FEMA's decision letter.  

Note: It may take up to 14 business days for documents to appear in your case file. Please do not resend documents or call to check on the status without allowing enough time for FEMA to upload and process your paperwork.

IS AN APPEAL THE ONLY WAY FOR ME TO DISPUTE FEMA'S DECISION?

No. An initial decision letter from FEMA denying assistance is not the last word. If your circumstances have changed, if FEMA’s decision does not make sense to you, or if additional information has become available that may entitle you to assistance, you can call 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585 to ask for clarification.  The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week. If you use a relay service (a videophone, InnoCaption, CapTel, etc.), please provide your number assigned to that service.

I SENT FEMA ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS BUT HAVE NOT HEARD BACK AND THE 60-DAY APPEAL PERIOD IS ALMOST OVER. SHOULD I STILL FILE AN APPEAL?

Yes, you should send in your appeal before the 60-day deadline.  In your appeal letter be sure to include any additional information or special circumstances related to your situation (for example, if you sent additional documents and did not receive a response).

WHAT IF IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN 60 DAYS?

If you think you have a good excuse for not appealing earlier, send your letter anyway and explain why it is late.

WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED TO FILE AN APPEAL?

Collecting the following documents before you start your appeal may make the process easier:

  • Copy of FEMA’s decision letter in response to your request for assistance;
  • Your full name;
  • FEMA application number;
  • FEMA disaster number; and current phone number and address.
  • You must include your application number on each page of your appeal documentation.
  • Explanation of why you think FEMA’s decision is not correct.
  • Supporting documentation, such as a death certificate, funeral home contract, invoice, receipts, signed statement, etc.
  • Your signature

Note: Your COVID-19 Funeral Assistance decision letter lists the specific documentation you must provide to FEMA if you decided to appeal. A FEMA representative may call you to provide further details, or you may contact the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline for more information on the documentation needed.
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per deceased individual and $35,500 per application, per state, U.S. territory, or the District of Columbia, in cases where the applicant incurred funeral expenses for multiple deceased individuals.

CAN I SUBMIT MY APPEAL LETTER ELECTRONICALLY?

There are three ways to submit your appeal: 

  1. Upload to your DisasterAssistance.gov account;
  2. Fax to: 855-261-3452; OR 
  3. Mail to: P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782. 

Remember to keep a complete copy of your appeal letter for your records. If you send it by fax, keep a fax confirmation page to prove you sent it.

CAN I SUBMIT AN APPEAL LETTER ON BEHALF OF A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND?

Yes. If someone other than the applicant files the appeal, the applicant must also submit a signed statement giving that person authority to represent the applicant. Note that FEMA generally communicates directly with each applicant to protect their private information.  The Privacy ACT requires FEMA to obtain written consent from the applicant to share their disaster assistance records with a third party.  The written consent must:

  • Be in writing;
  • Include the applicant’s identity verification information (full name, current address, date and place of birth);
  • Be dated and signed by the applicant;
  • Be notarized or have a copy of a state-issued identification card or include a statement verifying the information is true under penalty of perjury;
  • Include an individual identifier (e.g. registration number, current mailing address, current phone number, SSN);
  • Specify what information can be released to the third party (e.g. entire case file, current contact information, amount of disaster assistance received);
  • Include a third party designation that designates, identifies, and names the individuals, entities or organizations to which the disclosure is being consented.

WHERE DO I SEND MY APPEAL LETTER?

There are three ways to submit your appeal:

  1. Upload to your DisasterAssistance.gov account;
  2. Fax to: 855-261-3452; OR
  3. Mail to: P.O. BOX 10001, Hyattsville, MD 20782.

Remember to keep a complete copy of your appeal letter for your records. If you send it by fax, keep a fax confirmation page to prove you sent it.

HOW WILL I FIND OUT IF MY APPEAL IS GRANTED?

FEMA will send a letter to you notifying you of the result of the appeal.

HOW CAN I CHECK ON THE STATUS OF MY APPEAL?

To check the status of your appeal online, go to http://www.disasterassistance.gov and click on "Check Your Application Status." Or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. 

IF FEMA DENIES MY APPEAL, DO I HAVE ANY FURTHER RIGHT TO REVIEW OF THE DECISION?

There is no right of further appeal, but if your circumstances change after your appeal (for example, you have additional receipts or an updated death certificate) you should contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 to see if you are eligible for assistance.

DO I HAVE TO REPAY ASSISTANCE FROM FEMA?

No. If you are eligible for FEMA assistance, you do not have to repay it. You may, however, have to repay any monies received through the program if FEMA later determines you were not eligible to receive it.

WILL I HAVE TO PAY TAXES ON FEMA ASSISTANCE?

No, FEMA assistance is not taxable.

WILL FEMA ASSISTANCE REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF OTHER GOVERNMENT BENEFITS, LIKE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE (FOOD STAMPS), UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, OR SOCIAL SECURITY?

No, FEMA assistance does not affect eligibility for other governmental benefit programs.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER I FILE THE APPEAL LETTER?

After FEMA receives the appeal, FEMA reviews the letter and the applicant’s file to determine if there is sufficient documentation to change FEMA’s determination.  FEMA may request additional information or may contact the funeral home to verify receipts or expenses.  FEMA will notify you in writing about the appeal decision within 90 days of the receipt of the appeal letter.

WHAT KIND OF APPEAL DOCUMENTATION IS HELPFUL TO COLLECT?

FEMA recommends the following documentation, although this list is not exhaustive:

Denial Reason Acceptable Documentation
Identity not verified
  • Official government document (social security statement, etc.)
  • Copy of driver’s license

 

If your question was not addressed above, please visit FEMA’s FAQs for the COVID funeral assistance program, or call 1-800-621-3362 to ask for clarification. The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.  You can also check the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide (IAPPG), a guidance from FEMA that provides the public with a single, comprehensive reference containing policy statements and conditions of eligibility for all forms of Individuals and Households Program (IHP) assistance.

WHAT ARE ELIGIBILE FUNERAL EXPENSES?

Eligible funeral service expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • transportation for up to two individuals to identify the decedent;
  • 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;
  • interment;
  • costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates; and
  • additional expenses mandated by any applicable state or local government laws or ordinances.

Applicants responsible for funeral expenses for multiple decedents may receive assistance under multiple registrations if the deaths occurred in different States and Territories. Each registration will be associated with the major disaster declaration for the State or Territory in which the death occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Interim Policy Change 

WHAT IS THE COVID-19 FUNERAL ASSISTANCE POLICY CHANGE? 

FEMA expanded the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Interim Policy to assist with COVID-19 related deaths that occurred in the early months of the pandemic, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance on death certification. This policy change allows applicants to submit a signed statement from the certifying official on the death certificate, local medical examiner, or local coroner that links the death to COVID-19 for deaths that occurred between January 20, 2020 and May 16, 2020.

WHY DIDN'T FEMA AMEND THE POLICY TO ACCEPT A SIGNED STATEMENT FOR ALL COVID-19 FUNERAL ASSISTANCE APPLICATIONS? 

Following consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FEMA believes the largest number of undiagnosed COVID-19 cases likely happened early in the pandemic and prior to the implementation of CDC’s national guidance on death certification related to COVID-19.

CAN THE SIGNED STATEMNET BE FROM ANY CERTIFYING OFFICIAL, MEDICAL EXAMINER, OR CORONER? 

The statement must be signed by the certifying official listed on the death certificate, local medical examiner, or local coroner from the city/county/parish where the individual died.

CAN A SIGNED STATEMENT BE SUBMITTED IN PLACE OF A DEATH CERTIFICATE? 

No. The signed statement must accompany the death certificate. The letter must also include a causal pathway, or explanation, linking the cause of death on the death certificate to COVID-19.

WILL FEMA CONTACT ME TO ASK FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION TO APPLY? 

FEMA will not contact you unless you have already called FEMA and applied for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance. Do not disclose information such as the name, birth date, or Social Security Number of any deceased individual during an unsolicited telephone call or email from anyone.

Phone calls from FEMA may come from an unidentified number. If you doubt a caller is legitimate, hang up and report it to the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

Related Resources

To find the latest information for those impacted by active disasters, visit DisasterLegalAid.org

Last Review and Update: Dec 29, 2021
Back to top