Niles funeral home offering guidance for FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral assistance

NILES – An unexpected death in the family can add a financial burden to the emotional loss. For many families in the area, COVID-19 has been the cause of an unexpected loss over the past year.  In Berrien County alone, the health department reported Tuesday afternoon it had confirmed 226 deaths due to COVID-19.

A Niles funeral home is hoping to help families and individuals who have lost someone, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19 connect with funeral cost reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On March 24, FEMA announced it would provide financial assistance for funeral expenses related to COVID-19 that occurred after Jan. 20, 2020.

Locally, Tim Brown, owner and operator of Brown Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 521 E. Main St., said he and his team will be there to help residents with the process.

“We wanted to let families know, especially whether they had a funeral with us or with anyone, if they’d like assistance in applying for the reimbursement from FEMA that we could help walk them through the process,” Brown said.

The assistance could bring up to $9,000 per individual who passed.

The assistance is a long time coming for Brown. For the last several months, he has been working with the National Funeral Directors Association, in partnership with FEMA, to work on this legislation to assist families.

“It’s been ongoing for the last three or four months,” Brown said. “I’ve attended a couple different training sessions so that [Brown Funeral Home] would be a little better equipped to make that application possible.”

Brown said families may have had to take loans our or put expenses on a credit card to pay for services.

“In many cases, it was unexpected and families were financially not prepared,” he said.

As a part of the funeral industry, Brown said he witnessed families burying two loved ones within the same week during the height of the pandemic. Though no amount of money could take away from the grief of the sudden loss of a loved one, Brown said the FEMA assistance can ease the financial burden.

“Financial havoc that is also caused on some of those has been very difficult,” Brown said. “That’s what the program is designed to do, to offer a way to get reimbursed for those expenses.”

The program opens for applicants on April 12.

“At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton in a released statement. “Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.”

Eligibility for COVID-19 funeral assistance requires the applicant to be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred the funeral expenses. Multiple individuals who contributed to funeral expenses should apply as a single applicant and co-applicant. Applicants may apply for multiple deceased individuals.

The deaths from COVID-19 must have occurred in the U.S. or in U.S. territories.

The assistance is intended to help with the costs directly related to funeral services and interment or cremation.

Brown said anyone who is interested in guidance for filing for the assistance can reach out to Brown Funeral Home at (269) 683-1155.

“We can set up a time when [those interested] can come in. We have several staff members trained specifically to file that claim,” Brown said.

The offer from Brown Funeral Home is open to anyone, not just families who hosted a funeral with the company, Brown said.

“We’ve been contacting a lot of the families we have served that have family members who passed from COVID-19 or COVID-19 related symptoms to let them know we already have a lot of their documents they need here,” he said. “After April 12, we can help if they’d want that. Most of our families have asked us to assist with that.”

More information from FEMA on COVID-19 funeral assistance can be found at fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.

 

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