The most recent federal COVID-19 relief bills are giving local residents aid in paying for funerals resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers are raising awareness that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued its final policy on providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses.

The federal agency said the financial assistance it will provide will be a maximum of $9,000 per funeral.

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, Congress authorized FEMA to provide financial assistance to individuals who incurred COVID-19 related funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020. FEMA has issued its final policy — which includes details such as eligibility and documentation criteria and the application process — for how funds will be distributed to families. Additional information can be found https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance

“The Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers extends its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of any Tennessean who may have lost a loved one to COVID-19,” said Board Executive Director Robert Gribble. “I urge affected consumers to learn more about this federal financial assistance program in order to help cover burial expenses that may have been incurred.”

As part of its policy, FEMA will only award COVID-19 Funeral Assistance for a deceased individual on a single application. If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should register under a single application as applicant and co-applicant.

The applicant or co-applicant must have incurred the funeral expenses. The deceased individual’s documentation status is not considered as part of the reimbursement process, but the applicant(s) must be U.S. citizens, legal residents, asylees, refugees or non-citizen nationals.

Families should decide who the applicant and any co-applicants will be and to gather the documents they need to be reimbursed for expenses. The applicant must provide the following documents:

• A copy of the death certificate. The death certificate must indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are also considered sufficient.

• Proof of funeral expenses incurred. Documentation (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) must include the applicant’s name as the responsible person for the expense, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses and that funeral expenses were incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.

Eligible funeral expenses include but are not limited to:

• 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

• Cremation or interment costs

• Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates

• Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances.

If applicants have already received reimbursement for certain funeral expenses through government agencies, voluntary agencies, non-profits, burial or funeral insurance then they cannot resubmit those same expenses for reimbursement through this FEMA-administered program.

If they received any outside assistance, they must include documentation of this assistance in their application. If they received financial assistance through the deceased’s life insurance policy, they may still apply for reimbursement.

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