National, March 15, 2022 – Ed Michael Reggie, founder and CEO of Funeralocity.com, was recently interviewed by USA Today regarding the low uptake of federal COVID-19 funeral benefits. Despite an extensive publicity campaign undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), only 11 states had application rates of 50% or higher for the $9,000 death benefit available for coronavirus-related deaths.
Reggie stated that he believes a primary reason for the low application rates is that people are simply unaware of the benefit’s existence. He also cited the anticipation of red tape in the FEMA application process as a potential deterrent, as some people are daunted by the program.
The FEMA program, which pays for COVID-19 funeral-related costs incurred on or after January 20, 2020, has been funded by federal appropriations enacted in 2021. Applicants who ran up funeral expenses for more than one COVID-19 death may receive up to $9,000 per deceased individual and a maximum of $35,500 per application. However, people who pre-paid funeral expenses or had funeral insurance are not eligible.
Reggie’s company, Funeralocity.com, is a consumer advocacy platform that provides comparison prices for every funeral home and crematory in the US. He believes that the lack of awareness around the FEMA benefit is due to a failure to publicize it effectively. Nevertheless, FEMA has since improved its performance after initial long waits for applicants to get through to representatives when the program opened last year.
In addition to low public awareness, other factors may be contributing to the low application rate. FEMA notes that people over age 65 “typically have funeral/burial insurance or prepaid for their funeral,” and potential applicants may have received death benefits from other sources. Some people may also not meet citizenship or other requirements for the benefit, while others may not want to reopen the emotional wound caused by the death by gathering required documentation and applying for assistance.
Despite these challenges, Ed Michael Reggie and others are urging Americans to take advantage of the federal funeral benefits available. At a time of deep emotional loss, the financial relief provided by the FEMA program can be a much-needed source of support for families dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
Funeralocity.com was a Future Factory startup.