FEMA Updates Funeral Assistance Policy as California Hits Nearly $40 Million Funds Disbursed


On June 29, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) amended their funeral assistance policy to include COVID-19 related fatalities that occurred in the early months of the pandemic.

This policy change will allow applicants to submit a statement or letter from the death certificate’s certifying official, medical examiner, or coroner, that attributes the death to COVID-19 fatalities that occurred between January 20 and May 16, 2020 – helping reach more families impacted by the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19.

In California, more than 24,712 registrations have been submitted in multiple counties across the state. As of June 29, 2021:

  • 6,128 applicants were eligible;
  • $40,631,923.69 in funds were approved;
  • $39,251,772.77 in funds were disbursed; and
  • 18,469 funeral assistance applications are in process.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is encouraging Californians to apply for this federal financial help. At this time, there is no deadline, so all are encouraged to submit their documentation. Californians can begin the application process by calling FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585. The helpline is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST.

Find a checklist of documentation needed before your call by clicking here.


Why didn’t FEMA amend the policy to accept a letter of attribution for all COVID-19 Funeral Assistance applications?

Following consultation with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FEMA believes the largest number of undiagnosed COVID-19 cases likely happened early in the pandemic and prior to the implementation of CDC’s guidance on death certification related to COVID-19 nationwide.

Can the attribution letter be from any certifying official, medical examiner, or coroner?

The attribution letter must be signed by the certifying official listed on the death certificate, medical examiner or coroner from the city/county/parish where the individual died.

Can an attribution letter be submitted in place of a death certificate?

No. The attribution letter must accompany the death certificate.  The letter must also include a causal pathway, or evidence, linking the cause of death on the death certificate to COVID-19.

For more information, Californians can visit FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance website.