Anoka County taxpayers foot the bill for funerals for people when there is no one that can pay, according to state law.
The Anoka County Board Feb. 25 approved an increase in the amount the county will pay for traditional funerals, cremations and for oversized caskets.
Recommended by its Human Services Committee, the county board agreed to pay funeral homes that take part in the program $1,715 for cremations, up 1.5 percent; $2,810 for traditional funerals, up 8 percent; plus $200 when an oversized casket is needed.
According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, this will add $8,335 to the county’s cost in 2014 based on past use.
There has not been an increase for a few years and funeral homes that work with the county on this program have been providing the service at below cost, Sivarajah said.
“State law mandates the county provide this service to people who don’t have the means,” she said.
The county spent some $166,000 on the program in 2013 and provided 133 funerals or cremations, according to Jerry Vitzthum, director of economic assistance and the job training center.
The economic assistance department administers the program.
“This is a very basic service with casket and burial,” Vitzthum said.
There are no embellishments such as flowers or a meal after the funeral, according to County Commissioner Jim Kordiak.
Since the last increase in payments in 2008, the cost of burials has gone up quite a bit, less so for cremations, he said.
“The funeral homes were complaining, rightfully,” Vitzthum said.
Some funeral homes in the county participate in the program, some don’t, he said.
The county is called in to cover the costs when an indigent dies and there is no one to take responsibility for the burial or when a family cannot afford to pay for the funeral for a family member, according to Vitzthum.
Referrals often come from law enforcement or from family members, Vitzthum said.