The Federal Emergency Management Agency can help pay for repairing graves and returning caskets to their resting place, but family members must first apply with FEMA for individual assistance. The deadline has been extended to Friday, November 27, for the disaster events of Hurricanes Laura and/or Delta.
Ryan Seidemann, chairman of the Louisiana Cemetery Task Force, said FEMA registration is key in order to apply for the funeral assistance option. Seidemann, along with two other members of the state cemetery task force, and representatives of FEMA explained the process during three public meetings hosted by the Diocese of Lake Charles Oct. 20-21 to inform those whose family graves have been damaged by the recent hurricanes of the available federal funds.
Other key points Seidemann wants families to know when it comes to gravesite repairs:
- To receive funding, the family must apply for funeral assistance through FEMA.
- Funding that comes from FEMA to repair gravesites does not come from a person’s individual FEMA assistance recovery amount.
- There are no tax penalties for a person who receives funds from FEMA for funeral assistance.
- If a person registered for individual assistance and was denied, they can still apply for funeral assistance.
- When registering for individual assistance, check the option of funeral assistance on the application to receive funding for cemetery repairs. If you have already registered with FEMA through the Individual Assistance Program and did not apply for funeral assistance, call the FEMA hotline at 800-621-3362 to have the application amended to include funeral expenses.
- Ask about being a Good Samaritan to redirect FEMA funds to help those who no longer have loved ones looking after their graves. Anyone is eligible to apply for the Good Samaritan program regardless of where they live.
- Those receiving assistance will be required to sign a promissory note stating that the money will only be used for funeral expenses. If you applied for the Good Samaritan program, a check will be issued to the applicant (zero tax liability) and endorsed over to contractor who will perform the work.
FEMA will fund up to $8,000 for cemetery repairs including: damaged caskets, containers, vaults, urns, headstones or markers, tomb repairs, tombstone resets and replacements, and if needed, recasting. FEMA can also pay for identifying remains and re-interment. This includes those who apply for the Good Samaritan program.
FEMA will not fund base replacement for resetting, or tree removal unless the tree has broken the tomb or is in the way of completing the repairs.
The $8,000 assistance is per household, so as many family members or friends as possible are eligible to apply for the funeral assistance, even if the applicants do not live in the declared disaster area. As long as graves are in a declared disaster area, families are eligible for FEMA assistance.
Seidemann said the true interest of the state is to make sure cemeteries are repaired. No funds received go to the state. The task force’s main purpose is to serve as a bridge between families and FEMA. They will figure out what needs to be done and will coordinate with contractors to do the work.
Family members can register with FEMA no later than Nov. 27 by calling 800-621-3362, visit www.disasterassistance.gov, or use the FEMA Mobile App. Anyone with or without a displaced loved one may apply for funeral assistance. The funds can be used by the family member or donated to a family in need.