Data shows FEMA paid $46M for Louisiana COVID funeral expenses

FEMA created program to directly to individuals who incurred funeral expenses for COVID-19-related deaths.

Updated: August 18, 2022 - 11:39pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid out more than $46 million to Louisiana residents to cover the cost of funeral expenses tied to COVID-19.

Data released by FEMA in July shows the agency paid a total of $46.6 million to 6,769 individuals and families to cover funeral costs for COVID-19-related deaths since January 20, 2020. That figure was $32.2 million for 4,677 residents in January.

The funeral assistance program, funded by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and American Rescue Plan Act, covers 100% of funeral expenses for COVID-19-related deaths.

FEMA has spent over $2.6 billion in awards to over 410,000 people for COVID-19-related funeral expenses in all states and U.S. territories since January 2020. The money went to cover funerals for more than 419,000 people "who died from COVID-19," according to FEMA.

Texas residents received the most at more than $243 million paid out to 37,454 people, followed by California at more than $215 million for 33,620, and New York at more than $198 million for 28,914.

The FEMA website includes a full list of payouts broken down by state.

"At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters," Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said when the program launched. "The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate."

The program, which is paid out directly to individuals who incurred funeral expenses for COVID-19-related deaths, is open to U.S. citizens, noncitizen nationals or qualified aliens who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020, for a death attributed to COVID-19.

Applicants can apply for up to $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application.

FEMA policy states "Eligible funeral service expenses include, but are not limited to: transportation for up to two individuals to identify the decedent; transfer of remains; casket or urn; burial plot or cremation niche; marker or headstone; clergy or officiant services; arrangement of the funeral ceremony; use of funeral home equipment or staff; interment; costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates; and additional expenses mandated by any applicable state or local government laws or ordinances."

Funeral expenses must not be covered by other sources, and those who apply must submit documentation to FEMA detailing the cause of death, including a death certificate, proof of funeral expenses and any insurance or other funeral benefits.

Death certificates indicating "the death 'may have been caused by' or 'was likely a result of COVID-19' or 'COVID-19 like symptoms' and similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution," according to the policy guidance.

Death certificates that do not reference COVID-19 also are eligible if accompanied by a signed statement from a certifying official that "provide an additional explanation, or causal pathway, linking the cause of death on the death certificate with COVID-19."