Congresswoman Barbara Lee announces FEMA funeral assistance funding

Rep. Barbara Lee, the highest ranking African American woman in the U.S. Congress and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pictured here with Rep. Ilhan Omar (left), announced this April that people who lost loved ones to COVID can apply for retroactive reimbursements for burial costs of up to $9,000 per burial. Apply here: www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance. – Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP

by Alex Katz

Oakland, Calif. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee recently announced a new development for families seeking assistance with funeral costs for loved ones who have passed away as a result of COVID-19. Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin providing financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020.

Starting Monday, April 12, those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 will be able to apply for retroactive reimbursements for burial costs of up to $9,000 per burial. There is no citizenship requirement for eligibility for this relief. If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should apply under a single application as applicant and co-applicant.

“Families across this country are living on the edge because of this public health and economic crisis,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “On top of facing unimaginable hardship and loss, the last thing they should have to worry about is how to pay for funeral expenses. 

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Hot Line: 844-684-6333 or TTY: 800-462-7585

“That’s why Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and I introduced the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Act last Congress to help ease the burden caused by the virus. I applaud the leadership of Majority Leader Schumer for making this a priority, and I’m pleased to see the Biden administration is taking action to deliver this critical relief to families.”

The applicant(s) must provide the following documents:

  • Official death certificate attributing the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and showing that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
  • Funeral expenses documents, such as receipts or a funeral home contract, that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses and the dates the funeral expenses were incurred.
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources.

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Hot Line: 844-684-6333 or TTY: 800-462-7585

In May 2020, Reps. Barbara Lee and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Act, which would instruct FEMA to disperse $10,000 to cover the funeral expenses of those lost to the pandemic. Additional information on the program can be found here: www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, chair emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, co-chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force and co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. As a member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highest ranking African American woman in the U.S. Congress.