St. Lawrence County, funeral directors negotiate new rates, services for indigents' funerals
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 11:38 am

St. Lawrence County will continue to pay for burial or cremation of indigents, but without graveside services.

Local funeral directors have accepted the reimbursement rates for indigent burials that was approved by the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the county Board of Legislators at its March 4 meeting.

Counties are responsible for a proper burial for people that can’t pay for it. In recent years the costs have steadily increased, with the cost to the county nearly reaching $300,000 in 2012, according to the St. Lawrence County Funeral Directors Association (SLCFDA).

To reduce the cost and still provide a proper burial or cremation, DSS and the funeral directors negotiated new offerings and a new price structure that could save county taxpayers more than $60,000, the SLCFDA said.

SLC DSS will pay funeral homes for whichever method the family chooses, $1,850 for direct burial with a minimal cloth-covered coffin and concrete grave liner, or $1,150 for cremation. In addition, payment for mileage within 75 miles of the funeral home and regular weekday cemetery grave digging charges of up to $500 or direct cost of cremation will be reimbursed.

If a non-legally responsible family member wants additional services or products, such as embalming, calling hours, funeral or graveside or memorial services, memorial books and cards, an urn for cremated remains, and assorted religious items, they can pay up to $2,500. That will only be applied to offerings for the decedent and not to the coffin or grave liner. These charges are based on the general price list of each funeral home, which varies from funeral home to funeral home. The extra payments by the family members cannot apply to the reimbursable items or exceed $2,500 or the county reimursement will not be made and the faily members will pay all expenses.

“In the current economic state of St. Lawrence County, along with many other counties in the state, we, the members of the Funeral Directors Association, feel that this is a ‘win-win’ situation for all parties involved,” a statement from the SLCFDA said. “By re-organizing the service offerings and the payment reimbursement by the county, we are able to somewhat control our expenses involved in the services provided; and the county is able to pay a lesser amount for those same services than in the past.