FEMA money helping families pay for funerals of COVID-19 victims

Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 2:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Starting today, loved-ones of COVID-19 victims can apply for thousands of dollars in federal reimbursement for funeral and memorial expenses.

Petrice Brown lost her husband, Keith, in September of last year. Keith was among the first few EMTs in the state to die from the virus.

“I think about him constantly, and I really, really get sad about the fact that I wasn’t able to see him through his process of passing,” Brown said.

She said his passing was quick, unexpected and life changing.

“I may have had maybe six hours before the physician called and said,’You know he won’t make it through the night,’” Brown said.

Keith Brown’s funeral cost just under $6,000. It’s an expense that fell on the family.

“It is a burden of course, financially, things look a little different now,” Brown said. “I have two children in college, and I went from two incomes to one.”

When she found out about new FEMA money available for the funerals of COVID-19 victims, she called it a “godsend.”

Families can receive $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per application.

“Funerals can be very cost prohibitive and can really put a damper on a family, especially if you look at the situation that the country faced during that time when so many people were out of work,” Mandy Caceres, funeral director with McAlister-Smith Funeral and Cremation, said.

In order to get funding, people must provide a death certificate attributing the death to COVID-19 and funeral expense documents.

Caceres said the funeral home wants to help as many people as possible apply.

“We are not worried about whether we served the family this past year or not, we just want to help everybody get this reimbursement back in their pocket,” Caceres said. “If they’re uncomfortable doing it we can bring them in as an appointment and sit down and make the phone call together.”

Brian Calhoun, funeral director at Stuhr Funeral Home, said they are calling families now to get the word out.

“Any families that we know that we’ve served since January 20 of last year, we are reaching out to them and letting them know,” Calhoun said. “Whether it be transportation, a funeral or ceremony, a burial space, I think it’s great and it’s going to help a lot of families in this time for sure.”

The full list of qualifications for FEMA funeral assistance can be found online here.

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