By Tyronda James
Monroe County Legislators Vince Felder and Calvin Lee say they want to make the costs of funerals more affordable for Monroe County families.
Felder and Lee held a press conference Tuesday, outlining their plans to increase grants for funerals from $1,250 to $2,000.
“In talking with families and funeral home directors, it is clear that $1,250 is not enough for a dignified burial,” Felder said in a press release. “…families are often forced into choosing cremation as a lower cost option even when it conflicts with religious beliefs.
The funeral reimbursement plan is part of Monroe County’s Temporary Assistance Program designed to help individuals and families afford the cost of funeral expenses for a loved one who has passed away. Eligible applicants can currently receive up to the maximum of $1,250 for decedents aged six years or older or up to $500 for deceased children aged for years or younger. But to be eligible, total funeral costs must not exceed $6,000.
The county used to provide grants of up to $1,850 but that amount was cut to $1,200 in 2006.
Critics say that the amount was just not enough for a dignified burial.
Geraldine Dixon of Dixon Funeral Home says she understands what it means when you have to deal with discounts.
“Families are in need. Families are appreciative of any aid that they can get from the County. I have families come and say, well, I don’t want to cremate, but I had no choice,” said Dixon. “Now the families would have another option other than cremation. They are allowed to bury their loved ones in dignity with respect and honor and celebration.”
“All residents of our community, regardless of income, deserve a dignified burial process,” Felder said.
“People should also have the option to be buried close to family to make it easier for loved ones to pay their respects. “It is clear we need to increase the Supplemental Funeral Assistance Grant better to reflect the actual costs of burials in our community.”
Legislators say in talking to funeral directors and gathering cost estimates from different cemeteries and options, it is highly recommended that the grant be increased.
They believe making this increase will go a long way toward helping families be able to make the difficult decisions but make decisions with the right financial backing behind them.
“So they don’t have to just lead to a kind of knee-jerk reaction,” Felder said.
The Act will go for a vote before the legislature in March.