Families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 can now get help with funeral expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The agency launched on Monday a hotline -- 844-684-6333 -- to apply for up to $9,000 in assistance per burial, CNN reported.
While FEMA has aided families with disaster-related burial costs in the past, the COVID-19 effort is the largest of its type. Some $2 billion was allocated as part of the $900 billion relief deal Congress approved in December, while the Democrats' $1.9 trillion package last month bolstered it by providing the agency with an additional $50 billion to use for coronavirus-related costs.
To qualify, the death must have occurred in the US or its territories, and funeral expenses must have been incurred after January 20, 2020. The death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to or likely caused by COVID-19 or coronavirus-like symptoms.
While the applicant must be a US citizen or legal resident, there is no requirement that the deceased person must meet this criteria.
Covered expenses include the transfer of remains, burial plot, casket, clergy services, cremation and headstone, among other costs. But the aid will be reduced if the applicant received benefits from burial or funeral insurance or financial assistance from other sources.
FEMA has received "thousands of calls" and the call center is experiencing "some technical issues" on its first day of operation, the agency said. Some applicants are receiving busy signals.
"We ask that applicants be patient as we work to correct these issues and have all their important documents ready when they call to apply," FEMA said. "Please know there is no deadline to apply and applicants will have the ability to open a case."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both New York Democrats, have been pushing for the aid since the pandemic began ravaging their state in March 2020.
"We started fighting for burial relief a year ago, after Elmcor told us families were choosing between burying their loved ones with dignity and paying rent," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday, referring to a New York City-based non-profit group. "Today, those families will finally start to see some relief. Thank you to @SenSchumer for his partnership on this effort."
FEMA said Monday it's received "thousands of calls this morning" after opening a call center to process applications for COVID-related funeral assistance. The agency is blaming "technical issues," and acknowledged many people are getting busy signals, according to ABC News.
"We ask that applicants be patient as we work to correct these issues and have all their important documents ready when they call to apply. Please know there is no deadline to apply and applicants will have the ability to open a case," the agency said in a statement Monday afternoon.
More than 562,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US.
To read more about the program visit FEMA's website.
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ABC News contributed to this article.