In Tough Times, the County Funds Many Funerals

The United States has seen some tough economic times in its history.  Many of us automatically think of the Great Depression when we think of these tough times but the truth is that we’ve endured some rocky years in modern history as well.  Back in 2009, we saw a huge upheaval in the country’s economic landscape.  During the height of that recession, many people found themselves unable to cover everyday expenses much less the cost of a sudden emergency or family tragedy.

A death in the family isn’t always something people can prepare for, emotionally or financially.    When tragedy strikes and people are unable to pay for their burial and funeral cars the local government often foots the bill.  USAToday wrote a piece about this back in 2009, when the financial crisis was hitting many families especially hard.

At that time, the paper reported a 1.2% increase in the number of people reporting poverty-level incomes since 2001.  The cities and counties that have reported the highest number of requests for government-funded burials include Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Kenton County in Kentucky. In Los Angeles, there has been a 97% increase in these types of requests.

The desperation was becoming more widespread as more and more people are losing their jobs, losing their homes and finding fewer places to work these days. The problem is that no state is immune to these financial problems and coroner offices all over the country are struggling to find available funds to pay for the burials.

“It has put a major financial strain on this department,” said Lt. David Smith with the LA County Coroner’s Office. “I need to come up with $12,000 a month in a budget that’s locked up tight as a drum.”

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this problem.  How can local governments or other agencies help provide a safety net for families in need?  Are funerals a necessary expense or should publicly funded services consist only of a bare bones burial?  Weigh in with your take on this complex issue below.