Illinois' economic woes have placed these funerals on a list of low-priority concerns for the state. But that's not welcome news for funeral directors, cemeteries and insolvent families.
Buchanan and Cody Funeral Home Director John Buchanan says it takes six to 12 months to be reimbursed by the state to provide funeral services for those who can’t afford it. He says that’s caused many funeral homes to re-evaluate what services they can offer for impoverished families.
“What we've decided that is the most feasible is to offer some of our most basic services at basically our out-of-the-pocket expense and have families reimburse us for that," says Buchanan. "Then we assist them in filing for the Medicaid claim. We also caution the families that are filing these claims that they will probably not get reimbursed very promptly."
Buchanan says an unclaimed body is turned over to the county coroner’s office where the body is cremated.
“There are also situations in which folks pass away and they have family, but the family is unwilling to assume any responsibility," says Buchanan. "In those instances it, unfortunately, becomes the role of the coroner's office to deal with that, as well."
The Morgan County coroner’s office runs on a budget set by the county commissioners. Morgan County Coroner Jeff Lair says when the county assumes a body there are no funeral services. Normally, those bodies are cremated or donated to science.
The state provides funeral assistance to between 9,000 and 12,000 people each year. Maximum payments are just over $1,100 for the funeral and about $550 for the burial or cremation.
The state’s funeral and burial program, overseen by the Department of Human Services, was appropriated $9.8 million for the current fiscal year. During fiscal year 2012 lawmakers allocated only $1.9 million to the program, which was quickly depleted.