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Assistance available for COVID-19 funeral expenses

One of the more tragic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the number of deaths caused by the virus.

According to statistics from the Mississippi State Department of Health, 117 people in Warren County died from the virus from the time the first case appeared in the state on March 11, 2020, through March 25, 2021. During that same period, COVID-19 claimed 6,998 people statewide.

The resulting deaths meant many families were forced to deal with an unexpected tragedy and expense they were unprepared for. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently announced a program to reimburse funeral expenses to families who lost loved ones because of COVID-19.

According to information from FEMA, the reimbursement applies to funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. The death must have occurred in the U.S. and the death certificate must say the cause of death was COVID-19. 

The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or a legal immigrant of the U.S. The deceased does not need a specific legal status. 

FEMA will start accepting applications in April and assistance will be provided through check or direct deposit.

“I think it’s a good thing because a lot of people weren’t expecting this and there were those who weren’t prepared,” said James Jefferson, owner of Jefferson Funeral Home. “This will be a help to them.”

Jefferson said 2020 “was definitely busier than usual. COVID really didn’t pick up until the end of the year with us. It’s still very prevalent in several cases this year. People weren’t doing the right things and you had the big rush after Thanksgiving.”

C J Williams of CJ Williams Mortuary Services called the program “absolutely great. It will help people, especially those who struggled to bury their loved ones because they didn’t have insurance.

“Through Vicksburg, we had a lot (of people) to pass away due to COVID,” he said. We boosted our actual (funeral) numbers up from where they were before COVID hit.”

To qualify for the reimbursement, the person applying for the benefit must provide the following items:

An official death certificate showing the death was directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and occurred in the United States. 

Funeral expense documents with names of the applicant and deceased, the amount of funeral expenses and the dates of the expenses. 

Proof of benefits received from other sources specifically for funeral expenses. FEMA will not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

For more information, go to www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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