by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan/Washingtonpost.com
The Biden administration next week will launch a funeral assistance program that will provide up to $9,000 to cover the burial costs of each American who died of covid-19 — the largest program of its type ever offered by the federal government.
The program is open to families regardless of their income, as long as they show documentation and have not already received similar benefits through another program.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed burial costs before, but it has never offered as large a payment to so many people. In 2017, for example, FEMA paid $2.6 million to 976 people for funeral costs of victims of three hurricanes — an average of $2,664 per applicant.
But the novel coronavirus’s immense toll means a burial assistance program of an unprecedented scale is now being assembled. More than 557,000 Americans have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Because the number of people who will be eligible is not known, neither is the program’s ultimate cost — but it will easily be several billion dollars. FEMA is setting up a dedicated toll-free hotline — 1-844-684-6333 — and a call center to answer questions about the program and take applications starting Monday, April 12.