Almost $70 million has been approved for Ohio families whose loved ones died with coronavirus to help pay for funeral costs, but it’s possible that there are others eligible who haven’t taken advantage of the fund.
The American Rescue Plan established the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Fund to reimburse up to $9,000 of funeral costs for families who lost somebody to the coronavirus.
Local funeral homes said some people aren’t aware of the financial help available and Federal Emergency Management Agency data show a third of families in Ohio who lost a loved one have not applied.
Nationwide, FEMA has provided $1.78 billion to more than 273,000 people to help pay for funeral costs for deaths related to COVID-19, the new data says. In Ohio, 10,779 families have been approved for assistance, according to new data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
More than 34,500 COVID deaths have been reported in Ohio. Meaning some families may have paid for funerals without getting the assistance they were eligible for. However, some of that gap can be accounted for by the fact that FEMA cannot duplicate assistance provided by other sources, such as burial insurance.
Rob Rue, president and general manager at Littleton & Rue Funeral Home and Crematory in Springfield, said that the majority of families he serves know about the FEMA funding and he informs them if they don’t.
“The government is making sure people are aware of it and funeral directors need to make families aware of it and most are,” Rue said.
He said the next of kin has to apply for the funding and funeral homes cannot. He said it’s worthy for families to check into if they suffer a loss due to coronavirus.
Larry Glickler, owner of Glickler Funeral Home & Cremation Service, said the families he serves usually don’t know about the FEMA fund but he is sure to inform them so they can apply.
“A COVID death a lot of times comes swiftly,” Glickler said, adding that families are dealing with so much that they don’t always have time to look into FEMA funding.
He said he believes it’s up to the funeral home to help the family understand their options, but also noted that funeral home employees can’t apply for it on behalf of the family.
Rue, who is also a Springfield City Commissioner, has worked in the funeral business since 1980s and said the last two years have been challenging due to an increase in deaths due to the coronavirus and natural causes. He also said the effects of COVID like people wearing masks and social distancing made the job more difficult, too.
“When you wear the masks and you have to make arrangements -- we offer compassion and sympathy and you lose part of that because of the (face coverings),” Rue said. “And nobody was hugging anybody and it felt like you couldn’t offer (the same level of) sympathy and if you’re in my business you want to offer that.”
He said his funeral home and others are working hard to overcome those barriers and to offer all the compassion needed to families during those difficult times.
Eligible applicants may apply for COVID-19 funeral assistance by calling FEMA at 844-684-6333 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is no online application.
Funeral expenses that are covered include cremation, interment, casket or urn, marker or headstone, and clergy or officiant services. While COVID-19 Funeral Assistance may be a reimbursement, applicants are not required to pay funeral expenses in full prior to receiving assistance.
Applicants may also visit fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance for more information.
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