Monday, January 16th, 2017

Dead Broke – How much is too much?

The question of how much Wayne County should pay for indigent funerals came up again at the County Human Services Committee on Monday (2/28). Department of Social Services Director, Josh McCrossen said that currently the County pays out $300 for a stillborn  to seven days old baby, $600 for a child up to seven years old and up to $1800 for a person three years and older. The state currently reimburses the County for 50% of a indigent funeral cost, up to a total of $450. The state has not increased their portion of a indigent funeral since 1987.

McCrossen said local funeral homes that they are bemoaning the fact that Wayne County has not increased the indigent funeral cost since 1997. Funeral homes are stating that increased plot, casket, obituary, body preparation and services has increased to the point where they are breaking even at best with the current fees.

In 2008, the Wayne County Department of Social Services paid for 39 indigent burials costing $76,278, while in 2009 there were 41 indigent burials costing $84,347. The number of burials is slightly higher in 2010 and anticipated to continue to increase.

Currently Monroe County made a decision to pay $1250 for a basic funeral that would pay for a cremation cost.

Wayne County should allow a family to contribute in cases where they wish a  more elaborate service, thus offsetting County costs.

Currently, Cayuga County allows up to $2115 for anyone over three years-old; Ontario Couty up to $2111; and Seneca County up to $2250 for indigent funeral costs.

Wolcott Supervisor Kim Park questioned the County’s financial responsibility to pay for anything  over a direct burial, noting notification can be made in a County newspaper for  free. Rose Supervisor Lucinda Collier said she believes the additional services need to be offered  to allow the family a time to show their respect for the deceased.

Following a lengthy discussion, Both Collier and Huron Supervisor Laurie Crane voted to support an increase to local funeral homes. The new fees would be $450 for a stillborn, for a child up to three years old up to $800 and for anyone over three years old up to $2,100.

Park Lyons Supervisor Brian Manktelow and Galen Supervisor Steve Groat opposed the request. County Administrator James Marquette said he would like to know the cost charged by funeral directors if they are only requested to provide direct burial services, nothing else, for indigent burials. He stated the need to hold a meeting with area funeral directors.  It was noted individuals on Medicaid or Public Assistance are allowed and encouraged to establish a burial account.

Supervisor Plant questioned if indigent burial expenses are for illegal aliens; Mr. McCrossen said yes.

Marquette, McCrossen and several members of the Human Resources Committee have planned a meeting with funeral home representatives for this Monday (3/7) morning.

Keith Benjamin, from the Norton Funeral Home in Sodus, is one member of the local funeral directors who said he will be present for Monday’s meeting. One of the points Benjamin made was that funeral homes have to pay taxes on all supplies and services involved in funerals, but the County will not allow any sales tax to be added to indigent funerals. He added that the funeral directors are not out to make a big profit on indigent funerals, “But it would be nice not to lose money on them either.” Benjamin said he hoped Wayne County would adopt a plan where funeral payments could increase with the cost of living as other surrounding counties have done.