Texas has one of the highest pandemic death tolls in the nation with more than 80,000 deaths associated with COVID-19, according to the latest data from the state Department of State Health Services.
If any Texan wants help covering funeral costs for a loved one who died of COVID-19, there is still time to apply for funeral assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Eligible expenses include a funeral service, cremation, even purchase of a casket or urn. FEMA funds can also cover a marker or headstone, clergy services, and costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates.
As of this week, FEMA has distributed $1.78 billion in COVID-19 related funeral assistance to roughly 273,000 people nationwide.
In Texas, the federal agency said it provided over $176 million to almost 27,000 people — the most of any state in the U.S. More than 38,000 people in Texas have also at least started the assistance application process.
Last year, the Texas Funeral Directors Association sent a letter to its members about FEMA's COVID-19 funeral assistance. Some funeral homes now have the information listed on their website, including Lucas and Blessing Funeral Home in Burleson.
Crystal Bovaird, the funeral director of the chain's main office in Hurst, said she's already helped people apply, including one woman in her upper eighties with a COVID-related death in the family "who accomplished the paperwork just fine."
"She navigated herself straight through the information that I forwarded her," said Bovaird. "All she needed from the funeral home was a statement, saying there was no money owed to the funeral home."
According to FEMA, only individuals can apply. But, while funeral homes cannot directly get involved in the claims process on behalf of a person, Bovaird said there are ways they can assist.
"I actually have a note sitting on my desk right now of one I have to fax directly to FEMA, because the family says ‘I don't have a way to get to them. Here's my reference number. Here's my information with FEMA. Can you please just fax the paid off statement to FEMA?' And, I said sure, I can do that," she said.
If approved, FEMA will pay up to $9,000 in funeral aid for the death of one person, with a maximum of $35,500 per application if there are multiple deaths in a family.
To apply, applicants must call FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333. Applying online is not possible.
For more information, visit FEMA.gov. Currently, there is no deadline.