FEMA is still reimbursing funeral costs for those who have died of the virus, but across the country hundreds of thousands of families have yet to apply for assistance.
For the last year and a half, COVID-19 has devastated families adross Oklahoma.
Many of them thinking they are unable to pay to pay their last respects – not utilizing a key resource.
“I’m shocked,” said Ed Michael Reggie, a consumer advocate in the funeral industry. “It must be that people don’t know and also that people fear that’s going to be a mountain of red tape and busy work, I’m guessing.”
He – and we – have been going over the numbers of those who have applied for FEMA funeral assistance – and it’s startling.
As of October 4th, 10,472 Oklahomans had died of COVID-19.
But only 4,277 Oklahomans had applied with only 2,608 actually being awarded assistance.
More than 700,000 Americans had died of the virus by that date and only about 40% had applied.
“It’s amazing to me, there are no income requirements,” Reggie said. “You make a phone call to an 844 number and a FEMA representative walks you through about a 20-minute phone call.”
FEMA can refund costs up to $9,000 for those who can produce a death certificate stating COVID was a contributing factor.
“So if your loved one died and they had COVID and it was a contributing factor, go back and have the death certificate amended,” said Reggie.
He does have a warning, though.
“This is open season for scammers,” Reggie said.
He says it’s easy for scammers to get information from obituaries on funeral home websites and contact the family, claiming they’re from FEMA.
But FEMA will never contact you, you must contact them and Reggie recommends for anyone who qualifies, to do so.
“They’ve really made it a pretty frictionless, easy process,” he said.
You can call the FEMA Funeral Assistance Helpline Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at (844)684-6333.
More information can be found on FEMA’s website.