Jefferson Co. looks at how to pay funeral expenses for poor - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Jefferson Co. looks at how to pay funeral expenses for poor

JEFFERSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) -

Jefferson County leaders are taking a different approach to help solve a new problem, thanks to state cuts. Recently Illinois Governor Pat Quinn got rid of the $15 million program to help the poor and Medicaid patients with their funeral expenses.

That means the problem falls in the hands of county governments and taxpayers. To figure out how the county will pay and manage this new burden, Jefferson County formed a commission. It involves local hospitals, funeral homes and board members.

Jason Newell, owner of Newell Funeral Home, speaks with families everyday about the cost of a funeral and burial.

"We bring them through this room and they go through the process of selecting a casket and burial vault," Newell explained.

But funerals are not cheap. The average cost of a funeral and burial is between $8,000 to $10,000. Yet for those unable to pay that, the State of Illinois had provided help through the Funeral and Burial Program. The program reimbursed funeral homes just over $1,600. But that ended in mid August.  

"I know the state is in a bad finical situation and cuts have to be made, but it makes it very difficult for the people of the counties to pick up the cost," Newell said.

Jefferson County Board Chairman Robert White says they formed a commission to look at how the county will pay and handle such funerals.

"Trying to anticipate these things and try to be proactive and try to make sense of what our obligations, duties and responsible are when the state doesn't follow through with there's we're going to have to pick up the end result," White said.  

White says at county's obligations are not clear at this point. But he adds it's important to address them now so they're ready should Quinn's decision remain final.

"That at least that it happens and it's truly done and completed and settled in October, if they are not going to fund us, we have a plan," White said.

White says there is talk funding for these funerals could be restored during the fall veto session. But he says that's not a sure thing and they want to be prepared.

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