The agency has received nearly 176,000 claims from those who have lost loved ones to coronavirus as of May 11, FEMA said, and has distributed more than $ 17.8 million so far, the average claim s ‘amounting to $ 6,887.
Texas residents had the most rewards approved in the first few weeks, at 318, followed by Ohioans at 303, New Yorkers at 176 and Californians at 128, according to agency data on May 10.
Applicants begin the process by calling the FEMA Funeral Assistance Hotline, 844-684-6333. They then receive a letter and have 90 days to submit all the required documents to determine their eligibility. Requests can only be processed after receipt of all documents.
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Although the applicant must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, the deceased does not need to meet these criteria.
Applicants can receive up to $ 9,000 per burial, with a maximum of $ 35,500 per application. There is currently no deadline for requesting funeral assistance, the agency said.
Expenses covered include transfer of remains, burial ground, casket, clergy services, cremation and gravestone, among other costs. But assistance will be reduced if the applicant has received burial or funeral insurance benefits or financial assistance from other sources.
Some $ 2 billion was allocated under the $ 900 billion relief deal approved by Congress in December, while the Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion package in March bolstered it by providing to the agency an additional $ 50 billion to be used for coronavirus-related costs.
A difficult start
The program got off to a rough start in April, plagued by heavy signals and technical issues. The agency was overwhelmed on day one when more than a million calls called the funeral assistance hotline.
Due to the sensitive nature of the program, FEMA decided to register applicants over the phone rather than online. More than 5,000 agents were hired to take the calls.
“Right now we focus on empathy when talking about individuals who have lost loved ones. We want to make sure we do this in an empathetic manner, ”Acting Administrator Robert Fenton told Congress earlier this year, noting that the scale and scope of the program is unprecedented for FEMA.
Fenton acknowledged the bumpy deployment during a Congressional hearing last month, but said the agency “cleaned up this on day two.”