CALDWELL, Idaho — COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 Idahoans, leaving many families who've lost a loved one to deal with funeral costs.
Marisol Orosco’s father, Manuel Albarez, passed away from the virus in January. Albarez was known as a person who gave back to the community as a boxing coach who helped youth at risk for decades.
“Within in our family, he was a life force. He brought energy to everything that we did and he had great stories. He had so many wonderful stories that we all missed,” Orosco said.
While the family coped with the loss, they also had to plan funeral arrangements.
“Luckily for us, my parents planned for a day they wouldn’t be here. They had some money set aside to cover some of the costs, but even still, more things come after you lose someone, headstones, the costs accumulate,” she said.
Starting April 12, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will open the application process for the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program. FEMA will reimburse funeral expenses for deaths related to COVID-19 that happened after January 20, 2020.
The program falls under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Individuals could receive a maximum of $9,000 per funeral. Orosco said they’re considering federal assistance and believe other families could also benefit from it.
“This pandemic, this virus came upon us. It was here before a lot of us knew it. People that succumb to it. I’m sure they weren’t planning for their life to be over within a year. To think of other families going through this and that didn't have the means to cover everything at all. That breaks my heart,” Orosco said.
To be eligible, FEMA asks individuals to have a death certificate that states the death was related to COVID-19 and receipts of funeral costs. The Idaho Office of Emergency Management published a press release to provide more information on how applicants can apply.
“Many Idahoans have been deeply impacted by the loss of life due to COVID-19,” said IOEM Director Brad Richy. “I am glad to see programs like Funeral Assistance now available to citizens, knowing how impactful this program can be in assisting Idaho families during this difficult time.”
Orozco said the funeral services held for her father were limited because of COVID-19 restrictions and often hears from community members about the legacy her father left in the Caldwell.
Hearing stories about how much he helped the community gives Marisol peace of mind.
“We all have our good days and bad days, but we take my dad's kind of mantra for life for which was just go to keep moving forward, life will knock down you but you go to get up and keep moving forward,” she said.
Below you’ll find the number and hours of operation to get assistance for the program.
Hours of Operation:
Monday - Friday
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. MT
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585