Lafayette family applying for FEMA funeral reimbursement after 3 COVID-related deaths in 1 month

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to COVID-19, and starting April 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering to reimburse families who lost a loved one to the disease.

To qualify applicants must live inside the United States and have a U.S. death certificate that indicates the death was caused by COVID-19.

Martin & Castille Funeral Home in Lafayette has hosted many coronavirus-related funerals since the pandemic began. Regulations have affected nearly everything done inside. Now, several applications for FEMA funeral assistance are being filed by families left behind.

“When a death does occur, and it’s very rapid or very unexpected and leaves their loved ones unprepared, many things can happen,” Funeral Director Marcus Hebert explained.

Hebert has seen coronavirus affect Acadiana families time and time again. Although some are financially prepared to say goodbye to a loved one, not everyone is. For example he said finances may have been frozen or some expenses like a burial plot may have caught them off-guard.

He added, “It does add up quite a bit when all these items are not done ahead of time, or they are not prepared for.”

But now through FEMA, all funeral and burial related expenses can be reimbursed (up to $9,000 per funeral or $35,000 if an applicant applies for multiple deaths). It’s something Hebert is applying for after almost losing his life in January when he and five other family members were in the hospital fighting COVID.

“It took quite a while,” Hebert remembered of his time at Our Lady of Lourdes. “Even after a month in the hospital, it was very hard for the recovery. We did bury my parents while I was recovering. And one week after we buried my parents, my sister passed away as well.”

Holding back tears Mark Hebert remembered his parents, Nolan (83) and Hilda Hebert (82), and his sister, Karen Hebert Poche (53). They all lost their lives without a visitor allowed in their hospital room.

“We weren’t able to be with them. We weren’t able to hold their hand, and so they were alone, and I myself was alone,” Marcus Hebert remembered.

Hebert knows nothing can be done to bring his loved ones back, but he is grateful for the FEMA program that’s giving a helping hand to him and other families who’ve entered and exited his funeral home.

He concluded, “This is just considered a blessing, and we’re very thankful for it.”

According to FEMA’s website, $2 billion was provided to FEMA through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act of 2021 to reimburse individuals and households for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January, 2020.

Those who qualify, can complete an application by calling FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number at 844-684-6333  (TTY: 800-462-7585). No online applications are being accepted.

According to FEMA’s website, expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation typically include, but are not limited to:

  • Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
  • Transfer of remains
  • Casket or urn
  • Burial plot or cremation niche
  • Marker or headstone
  • Clergy or officiant services
  • Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
  • Use of funeral home equipment or staff
  • Cremation or interment costs
  • Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
  • Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances

Depending on which option you chose when applying, funds will be directly deposited or a check will be sent through the mail.

FEMA has received reports of scammers reaching out to people to register them for funeral assistance. The agency says it does not contact people prior to them registering.

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