Supes to discuss FEMA’s $2B in COVID-related funeral reimbursements

The Oaks Chapel sits at the entrance of Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary in Newhall. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse $2 billion in COVID-19-related funeral expenses for families. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is scheduled to consider a move that would help the county be ready for when California gets its fair share. 

Under the $900 billion stimulus bill signed in December, the agency is required to assist families with coronavirus funeral expenses through states and the bill waives the 25% state match. Funding is expected to become available for costs incurred through Dec. 31, 2020, according to the legislation. 

FEMA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment but “the agency is still reviewing the legislation and evaluating potential options for implementation to make assistance for eligible expenses available retroactively,” according to a county agenda report. 

County Supervisor Hilda Solis introduced a motion that would require the county to have a report ready within a month “to assess the feasibility of implementing the FEMA burial cost program” and “how it will be implemented in California to provide reimbursement of burial costs for Los Angeles County residents,” according to the motion. 

“Over 17,000 families are grieving the loss of a family member who died of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County,” Solis said in the motion. “Their profound grief is often compounded by the fact that residents do not have the funding required to cover the costs of their loved one’s burial, which is often significant.” 

Funeral costs have increased over the years, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. A 2019 review found that the average cost has increased 6.4% over the past five years to $7,640 and cremations increased 7.3% to $5,150. In California, the average was $7,290 but could range up to $12,000. 

“With the significant economic downturn caused by COVID-19, that amount becomes even harder to pay for many families who are struggling just to pay for basic needs,” said Solis. “Los Angeles County has a responsibility to provide the means for a proper burial, allowing dignity for those who have died from COVID-19 and closure for their mourning families. To that end, the county should advocate to leverage immediately the $2 billion dedicated by FEMA for burial costs associated with COVID-19 related deaths.” 

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take up the motion Tuesday during its meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

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