As some families approach the one-year mark since losing their loved ones to COVID-19, FEMA announced plans in the works to reimburse families for funeral costs.
Erik Pitts of South Florida lost three family members to COVID-19 -- his parents and a brother, who died two hours after Pitts himself got admitted to the hospital for the virus.
"Every day is a different day," he said. "It's hard."
Like hundreds of thousands of other families, Pitts was stuck with the emotional heartache and financial burden of burying his loved ones. He had to watch his brother's funeral on Facebook live.
"Everybody is hurting," he said. "Whether finances are not a big deal for you, you still suffer loss."
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA will provide financial assistance for funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. Pitts says he plans to take advantage of that new plan.
"The finance is not going to replace the people we lost, but it will assist us in the process moving forward," he said.
Details of the FEMA plan are still being worked out. To qualify, an individual must have died in the U.S., have a death certificate indicating the cause of death was attributed to COVID-19, and there is no citizenship requirement.
"It put me in a financial bind because those are all unexpected costs," Pitts said. "Nobody was expecting to lose lives. Not one life, but three lives in 60 days. It's hard for people to imagine that, but it happened."
FEMA's website says it expects to announce more details about the program and how it will work in April.