Monday, March 21, 2011

County To Cremate The Poor Who Can't Pay For Their Funeral

ROCK ISLAND— Rock Island County will look at cremation for people too poor to pay for their own burials, after the State of Illinois stopped paying for them.

In the past, the state reimbursed funeral homes $1,100 to help pay for burial services for indigent people who passed away.

Now funeral directors are being told that money has been cut out of the state budget. The cost will likely have to be absorbed by counties.

Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson says there were about 100 burials in the county last year that were ultimately paid for by the state. Now, unless something changes, it will be shouldered by the county.

''That's about $150,000 in my budget, it's not looking good'', he said.

Gustafson says the county will now be looking at cremation to cut costs.

''It's more beneficial for the county to utilize the cheapest possible means and cremation is that means'', Gustafson said.

He said his office will also investigate and scrutinize claims of indigence and the inability to pay for a loved one's burial.

''When families come to me and say they have ''nothing'', now I have to do my homework, start digging into do they have a residence? A vehicle? A widescreen tv? Equity in anything?'', Gustafson said. ''Families need to accept responsibility for their own''.

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