WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Past Due: Cost Of Burying Poor Might Shift To Local Governments

Apr 23, 2015
Originally published on September 20, 2016 4:34 pm

Bruce Rauner froze several state grants in order to balance the budget for the current fiscal year. Now lawmakers are asking what will happen to the people who relied on those programs even after their deaths. 

One of the grants provided money to cover burial of the poor. Under the program, funeral homes provide the services and bill the state to cover part of the costs.

During a House budget hearing, Republican Rep. David Harris asked a practical question about what coroners and funeral homes should do now that the money is gone. County governments have paid for burials not covered by the grant in the past. But when the program was cut in 2012, bodies piled up at the Cook County morgue. At one point, the coolers there contained hundreds more than they were designed to hold. 

Gregory Bassi, acting secretary for the Illinois Department of Human Services, said that in other states local governments pay for the burials. He said the administration plans to work with local governments to try and find solutions to the current funding problem. 

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