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(WJW) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is on track to implement in early April its funeral assistance program, which will reimburse funeral expenses to those who have lost family members to COVID-19.

Robert Fenton, the acting administrator for FEMA, made the announcement at a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

“When we talk about individuals that have lost loved ones, we want to make sure we do it in an empathic way,” he said. “While we’ve done funeral assistance in disasters, we’ve never done anything at this scale or scope.”

Fenton said FEMA is currently focused on training call center staff and finalizing the program’s policies. People will be able to apply for the assistance through a 1-800 number vs. online registration, he said.

“We think that again, with empathy being a priority, we want to be able to case manage and have that human-to-human interaction as we do this,” he said. “And make sure we do it in a way that supports everyone’s needs.”

According to FEMA’s website, $2 billion was provided to FEMA through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act of 2021 to reimburse individuals and households for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred between Jan. 20 and December 2020.

The American Rescue Plan continues the assistance into 2021.

Fenton said he anticipates using the funding “going backward… for those who have passed away and those who, unfortunately, will pass away going forward.”

FEMA says those who have COVID-19 funeral expenses are encouraged to keep and gather documentation.