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FEMA Is Reimbursing Up To $9,000 For COVID-19 Funerals

Marcio Jose Sanchez
Federal funding is available to help cover funeral expenses for people who died of COVID-19.

Families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 can now apply for thousands of dollars in government assistance for funeral expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and officials say nearly 7,000 Pennsylvanians have applied since the program launched less than a month ago.

“I don’t know that money can ever make up for things like not being able to say goodbye to your loved one, but it’s our society’s only way of doing that,” said Kathleen Ryan, executive director of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association. “In this case, for all the people that struggled to try to pay a funeral bill, this money is certainly helping to alleviate that problem.”

FEMA will reimburse up to $9,000 worth of funeral expenses per burial, which Ryan said is likely to cover some of the most common funeral services.

“Certainly in terms of the direct services, like direct cremation and direct burial, absolutely it is [enough],” she said. “If you’re going with a traditional funeral, depending upon what kind of services were had and if you add in the cemetery part, maybe not, because that adds quite a few more dollars to the funeral when you start talking about a traditional burial,” she said, noting that funeral costs in Pennsylvania can vary between metropolitan and rural areas.

The average price for a casket is about $2,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission, but can go as high as $10,000.

Frank Kapr, president of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association, said his funeral home in Westmoreland County has fielded calls from at least ten families who did not use their services, but were looking for more information about the FEMA program. They also sent clients whose loved ones had a COVID-19-related death a letter explaining the FEMA program, as well as a pre-call checklist they could use to gather the documents needed for their applications.

After a heavy influx of calls in the first days of the program and some technical difficulties, FEMA said it’s now averaging around 20,000 calls a day.

Applications first opened on April 12. By the end of the month, FEMA reported it had received more than 147,000 funeral assistance applications nationwide, and has disbursed more than $423,000. More than 26,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.

To apply for assistance, applicants can call 844-684-6333. There is no deadline to apply. More information about criteria requirements can be found here.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at