The report found that FEMA’s Covid-19 Funeral Assistance program, meant to help those who lost family members to Covid-19 pay for funeral expenses, was rife with fraud and mismanagement. The program lacked guardrails to help ensure the funds were used on necessary funeral expenses, with the program instead paying for anything listed on a funeral home’s invoice.
The program paid for $24.4 million worth of ineligible expenses from April 12 to Sept. 21, 2021. These expenses included things like obituaries, flowers, catering services, and gratuities, that the funeral home billed, but were not considered a “necessary expense” or “serious need” based on statute.
This was not the only problem with the program. In the same period, FEMA issued $1.3 million to multiple parties claiming reimbursement for the same decedent. It also paid some applicants more than the maximum award amount, resulting in overpayments of $759,026. Additionally, FEMA also gave out a “questionable award amount” of $591,805 for unallowable costs on 93 applications.
All of these mistakes were attributed to a lack of effective internal controls.
The rampant waste and abuse from this program means people that intended to use the program for critical funeral expenses couldn’t, since the money was already spent on catered lunches and flower displays. This defeats the purpose of this program, and all because the government can’t be bothered to monitor where its money is going.
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