How to seek funeral reimbursement if death was direct result of natural disaster

There’s never a good time to experience the death of a loved one. From funeral planning and execution to arranging a burial place, a lot goes into ensuring that your friend or family member’s life is celebrated appropriately.

But what happens when the death is the unfortunate result of a natural disaster – such as a flood, hurricane, tornado or wildfire – and you’re unable to pay for the funeral because of a loss of assets caused by Mother Nature?

Although a scenario like this is more likely to affect those who live in certain parts of the country, it’s important to realize that some funeral-related costs may be covered through FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Funeral Assistance program, which reimburses funeral costs if the death is attributed to a major disaster.


natural disastersWho’s Eligible?

Immediately following a Presidentially-declared emergency, each state’s government will determine an approximate dollar amount of funeral assistance and if it will be awarded per death or per household.

To qualify, you must submit – to FEMA – a signed statement from a licensed medical official that states the underlying cause of death, verifiable estimates of the associated funeral costs, documentation of any other forms of funeral assistance received, and confirmation that the expenses have not been paid for by other resources, such as Social Security or a Veterans Affairs pension.

The materials will then be reviewed by federal and state agents at the Joint Field Office, who will determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis.


What Funeral Expenses are Covered?

If the death of your immediate family member (mother, father, brother, sister, spouse or child) meets the outlined eligibility criteria, certain funeral costs may be comped by FEMA through the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) provision of the Individuals’ and Households Program (IHP).  

These may include transportation of next of kin to identify the remains if required by law enforcement, price of a casket, burial plot, monument and/or internment or cremation fees.

Additionally, the cost of reinternment from one location to another may be covered if the disinterment is caused by the natural disaster and the remains are to be reburied in a family cemetery or on private property.


Program Limitations

While it’s common that most, if not all, costs will be covered if it’s apparent that the death was caused by a natural disaster, some applicants reporting funeral expenses will not be eligible for reimbursement for a select few reasons.

Chiefly, FEMA doesn’t provide assistance if the death was caused by the exacerbation of a pre-existing condition or if it wasn’t fully attributed to the declared incident.

In addition, the program doesn’t include the cost of a newspaper obituary, funeral flowers, printed material – banners, calling cards and/or register books – transportation to and from the internment site or catering for a luncheon.

However, if the death of your loved one does qualify, it’s important to ensure that you send all FEMA proper documentation.  The case may be turned down, even if it meets all criteria, if incomplete paperwork is submitted.

To learn more about other assistance programs that may be able to help you pay for your loved one’s funeral, or to speak with our experienced and professional staff, call Beinhauer Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services at 724-941-3211.