Many have yet to apply for funding that reimburses families for funerals from COVID deaths

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 9:42 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There’s money left on the table for those who had to plan the funeral of a loved one during the pandemic.

19 Investigates discovered that this federal funding is not hard to apply for, yet so many families haven’t even made the effort.

It’s unclear if that’s by choice or whether they simply don’t know the money exists.

Ed Michael Reggie started an advocacy group called Funeralocity during the pandemic.

“We believe in funeral home transparency,” he said.

On the organization’s website, you can type in your city, then find and compare funeral costs around you.

Reggie says the average burial costs nearly $8,000 in the US.

The federal reimbursement program created under the American Rescue Plan Act offers up to $9,000 to families who held funerals for those that died of COIVD.

“This is just money from heaven really,” Reggie said.

But, as we mentioned, there are a lot of people who have yet to take advantage.

More than 34,000 thousand COVID deaths are on record in Ohio.

As of Feb. 7 data from FEMA, there is less than half that number of applications for funeral reimbursements.

“It’s very puzzling and very troubling because there is a lot of money left on the table,” Reggie said.

The process to apply is easy.

You just call this number on FEMA’s website: 844-684-6333.

There are just a few things you should have ready.

“Have the social security number of the deceased, the social security number of the person applying, who needs to be the person who paid for it, family income information,” Reggie said.

They’ll ask for income information, but FEMA says it isn’t considered when giving out the money.

After the call which should take about 20 minutes, you’ll get instructions on how to upload a death certificate and your receipt from the funeral home.

Reggie says he’s seen it take four to five weeks to get the money from there.

If you plan to go through the process though, remember this: DO NOT take any phone calls from people who say they want to help you get this federal money.

“There is a real opportunity here for identity theft,” Reggie said.

Reggie says that’s why FEMA has the program set up the way that it is.

“We all know there are heartless people who read the obituaries and burgle homes during the funeral service. Those same kinds of people will comb a funeral home website, read the obituaries, maybe even call the funeral homes and say, ‘hey I’m from the Smith family can you send me a copy of the receipt?’ and then call the families and say, ‘we’re from the funeral home want to help you get your money,’” Reggie explained.

Right now, the program is open-ended.

There’s no deadline to apply, and you can apply for anyone who died of COVID since Jan. 20 of 2020.

“We’re trying to get the word out to people so they do that,” Reggie said.

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