MACON, Ga. — Over the last year, more than 18,000 Georgians died because of COVID-19 complications, and for many families the cost for a funeral was unexpected and pricey.
Dawn Mullis lost her father, Charles Hanson, in August 2020 to COVID-19 complications.
He was a pastor in Macon for 22 years, and served as a chaplain for the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
“The amount of times my dad was at a bedside of family members getting ready to pass away... my dad didn't have that opportunity,” said Mullis.
Hanson was hospitalized for about a week before dying at 67 years old.
“We thought he'd have at least 20 more years,” said Mullis.
Like Hanson, many COVID-19 related deaths were unexpected, and so was the cost of the funeral.
“There was money that had to come out of pocket, and that was very hard,” she said.
Mullis says they paid at least $12,000, with the help of life insurance.
“My dad would always tell us, closure for a death is family being together and friends,” she said.
There’s hope on the horizon for families like Mullis’.
Starting April 12th, FEMA is opening up applications to cover funeral costs for COVID-19 related deaths. Families can expect up to $9,000 in assistance.
Sheknita Davis with Bibb Mt. Zion Church says families struggle to pay for these funeral costs. She says some didn’t have or couldn’t afford life insurance, or may have lost a job because of the economic downturn.
“This helps alleviate some of the financial burdens,” said Davis. “This is just another way to help deal with the grief.”
Mullis plans on applying for the federal aid.
“At least the government is thinking about families that have lost loved ones,” said Mullis.
She said the whole experience changed her outlook on life.
“I think my dad would want everyone to know that life is short, be ready, because you never know when you’ll take your last breath.”
To be eligible for help, you have to provide proof that the following is true:
- The death occurred in the United States
- The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by COVID-19
- There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien
- The funeral had to happen after January 20, 2020
FEMA will ask for the following documentation:
- An official death certificate
- Funeral expenses documents like receipts, funeral home contract, etc.
- Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs.
To apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance, you must call the hotline number at 844-684-6333.