Central Coast residents who lost a loved one to COVID-19 and incurred funeral expenses can now apply for financial assistance through a federal aid program.
U.S. Rep Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) announced on April 14 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began accepting applications for funeral assistance through its COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.
The program is part of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
"No amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one, but I'm hopeful this assistance will help ease the financial burden on those experiencing the compounded pain of grief and a global pandemic," Carbajal said in a statement.
Individuals who paid for funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020—for an individual whose death may have been caused by or was likely caused by COVID-19—can apply for up to $9,000 of assistance per funeral through FEMA's call center at (844) 684-6333 or (800) 462-7568. Multilingual services are available. The call center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Carbajal's communications director, Mannal Haddad, said district staffers can assist individuals by walking them through the application process and/or relaying information to FEMA on their behalf. Residents can reach out by calling the district office (805) 730-1710 or emailing through the congressman's website.
"This is true for Spanish speakers as well, we have a number of district staffers who are bilingual," Haddad said.
On April 16, FEMA released a fraud alert stating that the agency had received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. FEMA said it has not sent any such notifications and does not contact people before they register for assistance.
"Do not disclose information such as the name, birth date, or Social Security number of any deceased family member to any unsolicited telephone calls or emails from anyone claiming to be a federal employee or from FEMA," the agency said in a statement.
As of press time, 446 individual deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, and 257 individuals had died from the virus in San Luis Obispo County. Δ