Take Advantage of These Government COVID-19 Programs

Most of us have followed the rules - we have worn masks, we have distanced from both strangers and those we love, we have washed our hands, we have stayed vigilant, and, as a result, we are slowly working our way out of the isolation of the last 15 months.

By Catherine Blinder

Most of us have followed the rules - we have worn masks, we have distanced from both strangers and those we love, we have washed our hands, we have stayed vigilant, and, as a result, we are slowly  working our way out of the isolation of the last 15 months. But life is still hard for many people, especially for those who have lost family to the pandemic. The additional financial burden of paying for the funeral and the additional costs involved when a family member passes away can be devastating.

Here are two programs that can help ease the stress – one is a way to get help with the funeral costs of those we have lost to the pandemic, and the other is a broadband benefit assistance program that can help with the financial burden of assuring internet access.

FEMA is providing financial assistance, as a reimbursement, for COVID-19- related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. Although it is hard for many people to talk about, funeral expenses can easily climb into  thousands of dollars and at a time when hearts are broken and families are distressed, the last thing they need is to worry about funeral expenses.

Examples of eligible expenses for funeral services, internment or cremation are:

  • Transportation for up to two people to identify deceased individual.
  • Transfer of remains, a casket or urn
  • A burial plot or cremation niche
  • A marker or headstone
  • Clergy services
  • Cremation
  • Use of funeral home equipment 
  • Arrangement of a funeral ceremony
  • Costs associated with producing multiple death certificates

To be eligible you must meet these conditions:

  • The death must have occurred in the United States, or its territories
  • The death certificate must state that the death was attributed to COVID-19
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to be a U.S. citizen

You will need to provide the following information to FEMA when applying:

  • Your name, social security number, date of birth, mailing address, and phone number.
  • The name, social security number, and date of birth for the deceased person.
  • The location or address at which the deceased person passed away.
  • Documentation and receipts for any assistance already received from other sources
  • If you shared expenses with another person, you can list that person as a co-applicant, requiring the same information.

To apply for this assistance, please call FEMA’S COVID-19 hotline at 1-844-684-6333 (TTY:800-462-7585)

Go to: FEMA.gov/funeral-assistance/faq, where you will find information and frequently asked questions in several languages.

The second federal program that is available now is the Emergency Broadband Benefit program through the FCC. 

A household is eligible if any member:

  • Received a Pell Grant in the current award year;
  • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced school lunch program or school breakfast program in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income, due to a job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 (single filers) or $198,000 (joint filers); or
  • Meets the eligibility of a participating providers’ existing COVID-19 or low-income program

A household is defined as a group of people who live together and share money (even if they are not related to each other.)  If you live together and share money, you are one household.

  • A household can qualify because of eligible dependent children that meet the eligibility criteria.
  • You may have to answer questions about your household when you apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. 
  • A household worksheet will be available to assist in determining household eligibility.

Eligible households within multi-unit dwellings such as apartment buildings, nursing homes, and group homes can also take advantage of the benefit. Households within multi-unit dwellings, where the property owner or the property manager is the internet account holder, may be able to apply the benefit to that broadband service if they otherwise qualify.

There are three ways to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit

Option 1Contact a participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process.

Option 2Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you. 

Option 3: Send a mail-in application, along with proof of eligibility, to: 

Emergency Broadband Support Center

P.O. Box 7081

London, KY 40742

We want to help you find the help you need to survive the aftereffects of the pandemic. To fully understand and access these programs, please go to their websites for more information.

And as always, pass on the information with family and friends, and stay safe.

This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.