Watch CBS News

Roughly half of families impacted have applied to FEMA's funeral expense relief program

SACRAMENTO -- Oscar Henao's 82-year-old father was one of the 1.5 million Americans who died during the pandemic.

"The day before he died, I had the opportunity to actually hold him, see him, kiss him and thank him for everything he has done," he said.

Within six months of his father's death, Oscar's wife also lost her dad. And the couple found themselves stuck with the cost of two unexpected funerals.

The United States' Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, set aside billions of dollars for a relief program to help people like the Henaos with common end-of-life expenses, offering funeral reimbursement of up to $9,000.

CBS13 has learned that as of June, only about half of the families of victims have filed claims with FEMA, a rate reflected here in California, as well.

There were 92,000 deaths in the state as of today, and the June numbers we pulled for the program show roughly 43,000 claims filed, so a little less than half.

Oscar and his wife have applied.

"For us, financial-wise, it'll be a good help," he said. "But at the same time money doesn't mean anything. We honestly wish we had our parents back."

If you lost a loved one, FEMA's website shows you how to apply and requires that the death certificate must list COVID-19 as the cause of death, which can be a problem for some who passed early in the pandemic.

Thankfully, you can work to get the cause of death amended with the California Department of Public Health.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.