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COVID-19 Funeral Cost Assistance Available Through FEMA

WHEELING — Those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 are able to recoup some of their funeral expenses thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ashley Kepner Ferns, managing partner of Kepner Funeral Homes, and her father Jim Kepner, Co-President of Kepner Funeral Homes, wanted to make sure people throughout the Ohio Valley were aware of the service, which she said was first available in mid-April.

“There were a lot of struggles during the pandemic for people all over the map, especially with unexpected deaths,” Ferns said. “With that being said, we knew that financials were difficult for a lot of those families. So a lot of people, we’re finding, haven’t heard about this yet, so we wanted to get the word out.”

Families can receive up to $9,000 in cost reimbursements if they meet certain criteria. First, the funeral bill must be paid. The must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. A death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.

The applicant for the reimbursement must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020. There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.

Ferns encouraged those with COVID-19-related funeral expenses to keep and gather information including an official death certificate attributing the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and showed that the death occurred in the eligible regions; funeral expense documents that included the applicant’s name, amount of funeral expenses, and dates those expenses happened; and proof of funds received from other sources.

Families can call FEMA directly at 844-684-6333 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and Ferns suggested that families can call the funeral homes with which they worked, as they all should have the necessary information. Ferns said Kepner has sent letters home to families it has worked with that might be eligible.

“I think, for these families, it’s a little bit of a break and a little bit of relief from something they’re going to be dealing with tragically for a while,” Ferns said. “I think this can take a little bit of burden off of something that was devastating, so we’re hoping this can help alleviate some of the challenges they’ve gone through with losing a loved one during the pandemic.”

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