by Robert Gribble

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers are raising awareness among Tennesseans and Tennessee funeral professionals across the state that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued its final policy on providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses and that individuals will be able to begin applying for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance starting on April 12.

This will allow for those families that tragically lost a loved one to COVID-19 to apply for financial assistance. Although we cannot change the unfortunate impacts of the global pandemic, this program will help provide financial relief to Tennesseans.

To be eligible for funeral assistance, the death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Additionally, the death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19. To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020. There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen. Additionally, you will need to provide a copy of the death certificate and proof of the funeral expenses.

You and your family should decide who the applicant and co-applicants will be on your application and gather the documents you need to be reimbursed for expenses. FEMA will only award COVID-19 Funeral Assistance for a deceased individual on a single application. If multiple individuals contributed toward funeral expenses, they should register under a single application as an applicant and co-applicant and must have incurred funeral-related expenses.

The program will assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Expenses typically include, but are not limited to, transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual, transfer of remains, a casket or urn, burial plot or cremation niche, a marker, clergy services, the funeral ceremony, the use of funeral home equipment, cremation costs and costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates. The assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application in the state of Tennessee.

When you register be sure to have the following prepared for yourself and the deceased individual: Social Security numbers, date of birth and location and/or address of where the deceased individual passed away. Additionally, you will need to provide your current mailing address, telephone number and routing and account number of your checking or savings account if you would like to receive a direct deposit. Lastly, you will need to provide information about burial or funeral insurance policies and information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations and CARES Act grants or assistance from voluntary organizations.

If you have recently applied for other FEMA assistance for home and/or personal property damage, you may still apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance. However, you will have to submit a separate application from your previous disaster applications.

Applicants who indicate the decedent had insurance or received other forms of assistance covering funeral costs must provide documentation of the insurance proceeds, an insurance denial or documentation of the other forms of assistance before receiving further consideration for Funeral Assistance. FEMA does not consider life insurance proceeds, death gratuities or other forms of assistance not specifically intended to defray funeral costs as a duplication.

Lastly, there have been reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. Please note, that FEMA has not sent any such notifications and they do not contact people prior to them registering for assistance. Reach out to the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line to get an application completed with the help of FEMA representatives at 844-684-6333 or 800-462-7585. Once you have applied for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance and you are provided an application number, you may provide supporting documentation to FEMA. For more information about the program, please visit


Robert Gribble serves as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

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