By Leader Editor Kara Apel
Starting today, April 12, FEMA is now accepting applications for financial assistance related to funerals, cremations, and interments for those who died from COVID-19.
According to FEMA’s policy, individuals must apply — not the funeral home or any related business they have worked with.
Here are a few quick points you can share with your team:
- FEMA is only accepting applications via phone call at this time. The phone number is 844-684-6333 (TTY: 800-462-7585) and will be in operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET from Monday through Friday. Multilingual services will be available.
- Each family can receive up to $9,000 in assistance per funeral and a maximum of $35,000 total per application.
- The death must have occurred after Jan. 20, 2020.
- The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
- The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed directly or indirectly to COVID-19.
- The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020. There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
- Click here to access FAQs, the entire policy, and the list of the expenses that are considered to be eligible.
Familiarize Yourself with the Policy
If you have not already, be sure to read all of the resources listed on FEMA’s website, including the FAQs and the policy, so that you are knowledgeable about the process when families call or email you.
After reviewing this information, if you are unsure about anything, be sure to reach out to the owner of your firm or other organizations, such as a state association or NFDA, for guidance and clarification.
If you are the owner of your firm, you’ll want to be sure that all of the members of your team are on the same page and have an in-depth understanding of FEMA’s policy. It also wouldn’t hurt to set up a virtual or in-person meeting within the next few days to discuss the policy and address any questions your staff may have.
Reach Out to Recent Families You’ve Served
Have you reached out to the families you’ve served about this? This is a unique opportunity to have another touchpoint with them, and it shows them that you care about them.
For the firms that utilize an email newsletter system, you can send out a mass email to the families you think would qualify for this assistance. If you are not 100% sure if they will qualify, just be sure to note this within the email. If you don’t have an email list prepared, it might be worth having someone on your staff compile all the email addresses for the families you’ve served over the past year.
Ideally, it would be best if you could have a funeral director or another staff member reach out to each family directly, but because many of you are still very busy with death calls, sending out one or two email reminders may suffice.
In the email, be sure to include the contact information for your firm and let families know you are there to help if they need assistance with their application, such as locating invoices related to the expenses or ordering additional death certificates.
Market Your Expertise to Your Community
As funeral directors, you walk families through processes that they are unfamiliar with every day. Consumers in your market will expect the same level of assistance and care when dealing with this process.
You may consider creating a special page or popup on your website that you can direct families to when they have inquiries. This way, your website is still getting the traffic, and you will make it even easier for families to find the links and resources that they need. You’ll also be able to include your firm’s email address and phone number with this information, so they’ll have it right away if they have any questions.
FEMA has prepared an extensive video that explains the application process that will be helpful to share with families. You might consider embedding this video on your website as well. Click here to view.
Is your firm active on social media? If so, you will want to post this information on your social media pages — and here’s the most important part — be sure that you link back to the area on your website where you have added the FEMA information.