TENNESSEE, USA — COVID-19 has killed around 18,000 people in Tennessee since the start of the pandemic, as of Tuesday. For those families, paying for the cost of a funeral can be difficult and traumatizing. A federal program was created to help them cover the cost of burying loved ones.
The program is run through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, providing COVID-19 funeral assistance to qualifying families. Officials said around 4,300 Tennesseans have not applied for the program.
"It's part of FEMA's COVID relief," said Adam Starkey with Rose Mortuary. "They are reimbursing families for funeral expenses. The key to that is that you have to pay for that funeral and show proof of that payment. So, the funeral home will provide you with a receipt showing you paid for everything. They will provide up to $9,000 in funeral relief."
To be eligible for the program, a person's death certificate must show that the death was attributed to COVID-19 if the death occurred after May 16, 2020.
Deaths that occurred between Jan. 20, 2020, and May 16, 2020, may not attribute COVID-19 as the cause of death. To be eligible for funeral assistance, these families need to get a signed statement from the original certifier of the death certificate listing COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death.
They can also get a statement from the local medical examiner or coroner from the jurisdiction where the death occurred, officials said. Statements must also show how the cause of death on the certificate is connected to COVID-19.