RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Any day now, the federal government is expected to provide details into how families who lost a loved one to COVID could actually get reimbursed for funeral expenses. FEMA is the agency that’s behind it and officials there are working to set up a 1-800 number to begin fielding calls.
Alice Matthews’ husband, Sterling, was one of the first known cases of a person to die from coronavirus in Chesterfield.
“Some days are good, some days are not so good, but I still get through it,” she said. Right now, she’s planning a virtual memorial in her late husband’s honor. “I think we need closure. When Sterling died, only 10 people could attend the funeral. You couldn’t see him in the casket.”
It’s part of the new normal even funeral directors have had to get used to.
“We have some people who have passed from COVID or even some people who haven’t died of COVID, they’re in a nursing home so their families haven’t even seen them for months before they come to us. Imagine that. That is a painful thing, man,” Richmond funeral director Joe Jenkins said.
Because grieving families are dealing with so much, the federal government wants to help. Starting next month, FEMA will begin accepting applications to reimburse families for funerals due to COVID-19. Some reports suggest the financial help could be as much as $7,000.
FEMA says families should hold on to several items including their loved one’s death certificate that connects the death to COVID, funeral receipts or the funeral contract, as well as any documentation that shows what other sources families received money from in order to have the funeral.
“I think it’s a good thing. I don’t know how the federal government is going to afford to pay for this….A funeral cost more than $7,000, a funeral with a burial anyway,” Jenkins added.
“Some people just don’t have the funds once a loved one is gone because they may have been the breadwinner…Some of them have lost their jobs, let alone the loved one has gone, and they don’t know where their next meal may be coming from. They have to stand in a line now to feed their children or their family. [They] may not have money to pay the mortgage or the rent,” Matthews said.
This program will apply for funerals that happened after Jan. 20 of 2020. FEMA plans to mail out checks or provide direct deposits.
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