Many have lost loved ones over the course of the pandemic, and some families have had a difficult time coming up with the funds to lay them to rest.

A federal program has been created to help people all across the country ease that hardship, including here in North Dakota.

In order to relieve some of that burden, over 600 families in the state have received more than $4 million in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offset funeral costs.

Families can apply for reimbursement of funeral costs such as cremation, burial expenses and transfer of remains, among others.

The director of Thompson-Larson Funeral Home, Wes Burkart, says while they’re seeing a rise in funerals due to COVID deaths, this program will be a great help to families going through such a difficult time.

“It helps a great deal. It will pay some cases all or great portion of the services,” said Burkart.

A maximum of $9,000 per deceased individual is available, and up to $35,500 will be paid out for multiple deaths.

At Thomas Funeral Homes, Director Mark Roth says they have already received calls to verify claims.

“We’re seeing some phone calls back where the government is certifying that this money was spent with our funeral home and who did it and how arrangements were handled. But on the front side, we’re supplying the phone number if they want to apply that way,” said Roth.

The Funeral Assistance Program covers COVID or COVID-related deaths that occurred from Jan. 20, 2020.

Families will have to provide a death certificate and, in some cases, a signed statement from a qualifying professional.