By MICHELLE STODDART and MATTHEW VANN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday that it will reimburse families for funeral expenses of loved ones who died last year from COVID-19.
The agency said, beginning in April, it would pay up to $9,000 in expenses for individual funerals and that Americans who lost multiple family members can apply for up to a maximum of $35,000.
FEMA has set aside $2 billion dollars to reimburse “individuals and households” for funeral expenses between Jan. 20 and Dec. 31, 2020.
The money was allocated in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.
The agency said it is establishing a hotline and full-scale call center for individuals in the coming weeks, but encouraged Americans looking to apply to gather documents like death certificates, receipts and expense documents and documentation of funds from other sources.
FEMA said it hopes to “help ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the pandemic.”
“With empathy being the priority, we want to be able to case manage and have that human-to-human interaction as we do this and make sure that we do it in a way that supports everyone’s needs,” acting FEMA Administrator Robert Fenton told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Tuesday.
“At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters,” Fenton said in a press release Wednesday. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”
The agency usually provides funding for funeral expenses related to natural disasters, but the more than 500,000 American lives lost to the pandemic greatly outnumbers the death toll in other disasters.
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