KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, it's an incredibly difficult time.
On top of their grief, many families also have to figure out how they'll come up with thousands of dollars for a funeral.
There's a resource out there to help families, and it has already helped Blue Springs resident Michael Pratt, who lost his wife of nearly 30 years, Dawn Pratt, to COVID-19 in September.
Pratt said the experience of losing his wife was incredibly heartbreaking.
"It is really traumatic, not being able to see your loved one and not being able to talk to them," Pratt said.
Pratt said he had prepared to pay for this wife's funeral out of pocket until he heard about the FEMA funeral assistance program through word of mouth.
The program reimburses families for the cost of a funeral up to $9,000. According to FEMA, families must call in and speak with a representative first and then submit the following documentation:
- Official death certificate that shows the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and District of Columbia.
- If the death certificate was issued between Jan. 20 and May 16, 2020, it must either 1) attribute the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 or 2) be accompanied by a signed statement from the original certifier of the death certificate or the local medical examiner or coroner from the jurisdiction in which the death occurred listing COVID-19 as a cause or contributing cause of death. This signed statement must provide an additional explanation, or causal pathway, linking the cause of death listed on the death certificate to COVID-19.
- If the death certificate occurred on or after May 17, 2020, the death certificate must attribute the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19.
Families also must submit proof of funeral expenses and proof of any of funeral assistance received.
Pratt said it took several months to receive his reimbursement. During his time of overwhelming grief, the assistance helped alleviate a big burden.
"That was $8,500 on a credit card, so that's probably $400-500 a month roughly for payment, but it was a relief once I got it and I was able to pay off the credit card," Pratt said. "It was one of those things where it was just a whole weight off your shoulders."
Even though the program isn't new, many people may not be aware it exists.
Michael Adkins, funeral director at Serenity Funeral Home in Kansas City, Missouri, said he's working on getting the word out to families so they know the resource is available.
"When families know that there is assistance out there to help them that's a major relief," Adkins said.
Adkins said the average cost of a funeral is around $7,000 on top of cemetery costs.
Data from FEMA shows as of Dec. 6, 2021, 6,725 applications have been submitted in Missouri and FEMA has awarded 4,384, which totals $27,587,860.
In Kansas, FEMA has received 2,869 applications and awarded 1,958 totaling $12,740,495.
Pratt said he wants to encourage other families to apply for the assistance so they have one less thing to worry about while grieving a loved one.
For those going through the same pain he experienced, he has a message.
"If you lost a loved one, life still goes on, it's still good," Pratt said.
To apply, you can call the COVID-19 funeral assistance helpline at 844-684-6333 TTY 800-462-7585. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST.