Program to help the poor pay for family funeral costs dropped from Michigan budget
Poor residents of the state of Michigan who lose a family member will lose an assistance program to help pay funeral costs.
The state spent $4.1 million in the last 12 month helping low income residents bury a close relative, reports Michigan Public Radio. The program, which is designed to assist in covering funeral costs that average $7,000, has seen cuts over the last several years.
As recently as ten years ago, the average payment to help a family bury a loved one was $1290. The state reduced the rate over the years. Since 2007, the maximum the state would pay is $700. Last year the average payment was $569.
Phil Douma, executive director of the Michigan Funeral Home Directors Association, tells MPR’s Lester Graham that the budget will help pay for unclaimed bodies. That has been an issue in Wayne County, reported the Wall Street Journal. In fact, that plight drove Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan to pledge to cut the backlog in freeing up cash for the hundreds of bodies awaiting burial assistance. This new budget would only pay for unclaimed bodies, MPR reports.
And that’s what the new state budget does. State dollars will only be used to bury or cremate unclaimed bodies. In other states where that’s happened, the number of unclaimed bodies increased because families could not afford the cost of burying their loved ones. They simply walked away. No funeral. No goodbye.
This is another example of budget cuts impacting the working poor in Michigan — from proposals to force foster kids to purchase only used clothing to a proposal to cut the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
The foster children proposal was changed after a national outcry.
The credit has been salvaged, to a point, but it was seriously cut. That move was made, advocates say, to cover the $1.7 billion cut to the state’s Michigan Business Tax and Surcharge.