Four funeral expense resources you may not be aware of

a grieving man kneeling on a grave with red flower
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Second in a series

When a loved one passes away, financing what comes next can be an extra burden on top of the loss. The National Funeral Directors Association reports the median cost of an adult funeral in 2021 was $7,848, a cost that does not include cemetery plots, funeral home staffing, or headstones. In the Minnesota region, the median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and ceremony followed by burial is $8,500. 

Funeral directors recommend planning ahead for death with a life insurance policy or by pre-paying for burial or cremation costs. People can also designate beneficiaries so their property or funds can be used to cover their funeral.

Related Story: Parting gift: End-of-life planning eases family burdens

For many, however, death is unexpected. Memorial funds are one of the top crowdfunding causes, but there are a few other resources people can turn to for extra help.

Below is a non-comprehensive guide of funeral assistance available. Note that some programs only offer reimbursements, while others require pre-approval of funeral expenses.

Most programs require people to exhaust all other resources—available assets, auto insurance, Medicaid, worker’s compensation, etc.—before receiving assistance.

1. FEMA: COVID-related deaths

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides funeral assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred on or after January 20, 2020.

The New York Times recently reported that the national government program is underused. “More than 900,000 COVID-related deaths have been reported in the United States, but fewer than half have been the subject of a claim, according to FEMA data,” read a Feb. 11 article. 

In Minnesota where the Minnesota Department of Health reports over 11,797 COVID-related deaths as of Feb. 11, less than half have started applications.

To receive assistance, you must apply over the phone with documentation. FEMA estimates it to be a 20-minute process. Multilingual services are available.

Type: Reimbursement of incurred expenses

Amount: Up to $9,000 per deceased individual (max. $35,500 per application)

Eligibility: COVID-related death; applicant is U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien

How to apply: Call helpline 844-684-6333

Website: www.fema.gov/disaster/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance


2. County assistance: varying guidelines

Minnesota statute mandates that counties offer residency-based funeral assistance for deceased persons without sufficient means. Counties have varying guidelines for eligibility. Many have income limitations and only cover basic services. Contact your county office for more information.

Summary of programs in the Twin Cities 7-county metro:

Anoka

Type: Pre-approval of expenses (exceptions for faith traditions requiring immediate burial)

Amount: Up to $2,810 for adult traditional burial

Eligibility: Residency; household income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Income Guideline; must apply within 30 days of notification of death

How to apply: Submit completed application via fax, mail or email. Alternatively, schedule an appointment for an in-person interview.

Website: www.anokacounty.us/201/Funeral-Funds

Carver

Type: Pre-approval of expenses

Amount: Up to $3,600 for traditional burial

Eligibility: Residency; household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level

How to apply: Submit completed application to Carver County Health and Human Services

Website: bit.ly/carvercountyburialresources

Dakota

Type: Payments made directly to a funeral home or cemetery

Amount: N/A

Eligibility: Residency; requests for assistance must be received within 60 days from the date of death

How to apply: Call Dakota County Community Services Division, 651-554-5611

Website: bit.ly/Dakotaburialresources

Hennepin

Type: Pre-approval of expenses (exceptions for faith traditions requiring immediate burial and others on case-by-case basis)

Amount: Up to $3,000

Eligibility: Residency; household income 275% of federal poverty level; cost of burial under $4,400; application must be submitted within 14 days of death or notification of death

How to apply: Submit completed application via fax or mail 

Website: www.hennepin.us/residents/human-services/burial-assistance

Ramsey

Type: Pre-approval of expenses 

Amount: N/A

Eligibility: Residency; application received within 30 days of death or notification of death

How to apply: Call Ramsey County Funeral Assistance, 651-266-3645

Website: N/A 

Scott

Type: Pre-approval of expenses

Amount: Up to $4,678 for cremation

Eligibility: Residency

How to apply: Call Scott County Health and Human Services, 952-496-8686

Website: www.scottcountymn.gov/306/County-Burial

Washington

Type: Pre-approval of expenses

Amount: Up to $2,076 for a traditional burial

Eligibility: Residency

How to apply: Call Washington County Community Services, 651-430-6455 

Website: www.co.washington.mn.us/469/Community-Services


3. Veteran benefits

U.S. veterans may be eligible for funeral assistance in addition to plots in state or national cemeteries, a headstone or marker, and a U.S. flag. 

As every veteran’s situation is unique, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs recommends veterans and their loved ones contact their local County Veterans Service Office (CVSO) to determine what benefits are available to them. 

Some counties, like Ramsey County, also own plots reserved exclusively for veterans and their spouses so they can be buried in local cemeteries, if interested.

To inquire about local plots and other benefits, find your CVSO here: www.macvso.org/find-a-cvso.html

Type: Reimbursement

Amount: Burial allowance for a non-service-connected death is $300, and $2,000 for a death connected to military service. Varying burial and plot allowance depending on date of death, whether service-connected death, and whether hospitalized by VA at time of death.

Eligibility: Contact CVSO to determine

How to apply: Apply online or mail an application

Website: www.va.gov/burials-memorials


4. Minnesota Crime Reparations Board: victims of violent crime

Established in 1974, this state program provides financial help to victims and their families “for losses incurred as a result of crime,” according to its website. 

In addition to funeral assistance, the program covers expenses like mental health counseling, child care and household services, lost wages, crime scene cleanup, and financial support for dependents of a homicide victim. Reparation claims are allowable for up to $50,000 on behalf of one victim.

Type: Pre-authorize and reimbursement

Amount: Up to $7,500 for funeral and related costs, with an additional $1,000 to purchase a headstone.

Eligibility: Family members, guardians, and/or person who paid funeral expenses for victims of violent crime; crime occurred in Minnesota and was reported to police within 30 days; claim must be filed within three years

How to apply: Apply through an online portal or submit completed application form via mail, fax, or email

Website: bit.ly/dpscrimeresources