HOUSTON - With so many people unexpectedly passing away from the coronavirus or other reasons, many families are struggling with suddenly having to pay for funerals.
While no matter what your loved one died from, funeral costs can further devastate a family. Fortunately, FEMA is offering funeral assistance by now paying up to $9,000 for people who died from COVID-19.
Anna Cantu says her father, Jose Rivera, died unexpectedly after a heart attack, and her family was faced with the high cost of planning his funeral.
"We didn't find out until he was already under, so we didn't get a chance to say goodbye," Cantu said. "By the time you're done, they're wanting to charge $16,000, $17,000. And that's just not something a lot of us have put up."
Cantu called different funeral homes and shaved costs down to about $9,000, but it was still tough.
"My husband and I weren't working, my sister, we just were in a very difficult position," she explained.
Experts say the best way to keep funeral costs down is to plan. You can compare prices, as Cantu did, from different funeral homes. You can also pre-pay or pay overtime for a funeral plan, which can lock in lower prices.
Funeralocity.com is a site that can help you compare costs.
"The family will benefit in every way that they didn't have to plan it in the middle of their grief-stricken period, and can simply mourn and celebrate that person's life and the prices will be really better," said Ed Michael Reggie, CEO of Funeralocity.
FEMA is now providing up to $9000 for funerals for COVID-19 victims, current-day, future, and going back to January 20, 2020. Applicants will need the death certificate, receipts for funeral expenses, and proof of any portion already covered by a death benefit. Applicants can only call, which can mean long wait times.
"It started April 12 and by FEMA's estimate, one million people a day were hitting the phone lines and calling them. There were long waits," said Reggie.
FEMA also warns you to watch out for scammers offering this benefit. People can only apply by calling FEMA at (844) 684-6333.
Other ways to keep funeral costs down are cremation, burying on family land, holding your own memorial service, or donating the body to medical research. Make sure the program is an accredited member of the American Association of Tissue Banks.
Funeral Consumers Alliance offers resources to help cut funeral costs.
Financial assistance for funerals is limited. Some churches and charities provide assistance.
Some families hold fundraisers, such as crowdsourcing through sites like GoFundMe.
Social Security recipients, military members, and veterans are eligible for funeral benefits.