FEMA COVID-19 funeral assistance does not cover prepaid funerals

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Jerry Barske of Cedar Rapids is upset over not being able to get FEMA assistance to cover the cost of his mother’s funeral. FEMA is paying up to $9,000 dollars to reimburse funerals of COVID-19 victims. It dates back to deaths from January 20th of last year. And it won’t reimburse if a person paid for their funeral in advance.

Barske lost his mother, Helen, to COVID in November. She prepaid for her funeral back in 2017 so it would never be a burden on her family. Now, Barske said he feels like they’re being punished for their mother planning ahead.

Barske gets emotional thinking about his mother. He said he’s not afraid to admit that he was a mama’s boy.

“She was the rock in our family,” said Barske. “She was the one everybody could count on. My brother and sister and I miss her very much.”

Barske was disappointed when a funeral director told him that his mother’s services wouldn’t qualify for FEMA assistance. Now, he’s trying to shine a light on this issue.

“It’s not that I’m so concerned about getting $9,000,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of I’m not understanding why.”

Barske got a call from Congresswoman Ashley Hinson’s office on Wednesday and was told that they are working on it.

In a statement to KCRG-TV9, Hinson’s office said “Now we are pressing FEMA for answers and for clarifications on the agency’s guidance. Anyone in Iowa’s First District who is experiencing an issue or has questions about a federal agency should contact our office-we are here to help and serve!”

Second District Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks also responding with a statement: “This pandemic has created several unintended consequences that we must do a better job addressing. The Congresswoman believes that anyone in a situation like this should contact their federal and state representatives for assistance.”

Senator Chuck Grassley said he was hearing about it for the first time during his weekly conference call. “It is a policy that needs to be investigated,” he said.

Barske said he wants an even playing field.

“When you look at the world of fairness, if the Biden Administration and the COVID relief bill is intended to pay over a half a million people for their funeral expenses, they should pay all half-million,” he said. “I don’t understand how you can pick winners and losers on that.”

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