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Proposal For Possible Indigent Burial Program Relief

Proposal for possible indigent burial program relief.


It is apparent that the cuts to the budget will include cuts in the funding allowed for the Social Service Indigent Burial funding. 

A recent WILX TV 10 report highlighted this problem.  


Recently, both State of Michigan and federal legislation is being written and introduced to help with the burden on the funeral directors that serve the families who have no resources to take care of funeral expenses.

The following is the background on these pieces of legislation that may help the funeral firms who will have to face the increasing number of indigent services.

For further information or to comment please contact Joseph E. Pray at

It is unfair that a family be denied the dignity and healing values of the funeral simply because they don’t have cash.   That is exactly what is happening in many instances.  Some funeral firms only provide minimum disposition services to families who have no other resources to take care of their deceased family members other than the DHS Indigent burial program.  It is simply a matter of business economics.


Lets look at some background information:


Funeral Homes are limited in their options when serving indigent families.  The funeral firm can either:


Limit the available services to the family to the most basic disposition of the deceased.  This denies the family of the therapeutic value of the funeral services;


Funeral firms provide the services way below their costs. The loss incurred is then passed on to other families we serve;


The funeral firm may refuse to serve the family.  That is no solution either.  Some funeral home has to serve the family, who else has the ability, the training, and the authority to do so?


In some cases there is no family, nor guardian to authorize the funeral home to take care of the deceased.   While state law is in place to allow a funeral director to request direction for disposition through the court system in such cases, the time required and court fees to secure such permission adds to the funeral directors expense in caring for the deceased.    Time delays such as these also may require additional professional expenses including embalming, and additional care for the deceased as required by practical needs, public health concerns and State of Michigan law.


The Proposed Solution:


Therefore an idea that may help the funeral firms saddled with the responsibility of serving the indigent of their community is to provide relief to the firms through either a tax credit or tax deduction on their state business income tax.   This could be easily calculated by comparing the funeral home’s standard general price list charges to the Department of Human Services Indigent Burial payment for the services provided.  The difference would be claimed as a deduction, or a credit on the firms state income tax.


For example:

The DHS Indigent Burial Allowance is currently $579.00 to a funeral home for “services, and casket.”  (This will most likely be decreased under the current executive order to $445.00)  The most basic services would in most cases include transfer of the deceased to the funeral home, embalming and sanitary care of the deceased and preparation for burial, a minimum casket,  and transportation to the place of interment.  These expenses may range in cost from $1500.00 to $2700.00 depending on a funeral firm’s general price list.  For our demonstration purposes lets use a figure of $2000.00.  Therefore the difference would be $1555.00  which would be able to be used for a tax deduction or credit by the firm. 


The simple idea makes sense because each funeral home is required by Federal Trade Commission regulation to maintain a mandatory General Price List that is available to the public on request and at any time funeral or disposition arrangements are discussed.  This allows an easy calculation of the standard costs for any service or preparations required to serve the indigent’s needs.


When this has been discussed before the main that it was not considered was because the critics claimed that the funeral home has no income to report and only has minimal expenses in serving an indigent family due to the minimal services.  However a funeral home has a high fixed expense basis.  Each funeral firm has an investment in facilities and staff, and incurs utility costs, real estate taxes and other expenses that need to be paid whether or not any income is generated.  These expenses are generally included in any businesses charges as overhead that needs to be recovered on every customer interaction. 


When serving an indigent person, the DHS allowance is not sufficient to cover even the basic overhead expenses for minimal professional services. 


There could be limits built in such as a reasonable cap that is indexed to inflation on the amount of tax deduction or tax credit.  This could be easily calculated by developing an average of funeral firms general price lists from throughout the state.  This would be a simple endeavor, since each firm is required to make it’s general price list available on demand.  A simple collection of general price lists from a sufficient sample of firms throughout the state could simply be added together, and a simple average calculated.


A simple limit on the program would also be possible by having each funeral firm that handles an indigent burial file their general price list with their county DHS office. 


Yes I realize that the government is looking for a ways to cut expense and raise income for the state, however, it is not fair that private business shoulder the burden of a social program without sufficient support to pay the expenses.  This allows the funeral firms who serve these families at a loss to recover some of their loss in time and unreimbursed expense.


Care for indigents is not an optional business decision.  People die and they have to be taken care of whether or not there are funds to pay for services


If funeral firms refuse to take care of them, who will?  The State of Michigan?  What office would that task fall to?  Who would want it? Could the State handle it?  Should the State handle it? I don’t think so.

For further information or to comment please contact Joseph E. Pray at


NFDA Supports Bill to Provide Tax Deduction for Indigent Funeral and Burials

At the request of the National Funeral; Directors Association (NFDA), Rep. Paul Broun, D-Ga., has introduced, H.R. 3809, the “Indigent Funeral Expense Reimbursement Act of 2009.”

Most state or local governments have funds set aside to pay for the funeral and final disposition of individuals who have no resources to pay for it themselves. These funds are paid to local funeral homes that provide a basic funeral, merchandise and disposition services on a volunteer basis. The payments, however, are minimal and typically fail to cover all the costs incurred by a funeral home.

This situation has been exacerbated by the current economic downturn, during which more families have been unable to pay for funeral and burial expenses due to unemployment or other economic circumstances. Additionally, many state and local governments are cutting budgets, leaving indigent burial funds either under- or unfunded. This leaves funeral homes, which are asked to continue providing services and merchandise, in an even more untenable financial position.

This bill is designed to provide funeral homes with some relief by enacting a tax deduction for any costs incurred that exceed any payments or tax benefits received by or from a state or local government.

NFDA members are asked to contact their representatives and urge them to co-sponsor and actively support passage of H.R. 3809. Doing so is simple using NFDA's Congress-at-a-Click tool; there, you will find a prepared email, which you can customize, to send out today! For more information about this bill, contact a member of NFDA's Advocacy Division staff in Washington, D.C.: Senior Vice President of Advocacy John Fitch, 202-547-0441; Director of Political Affairs Lesley Witter, 202-547-0877.


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Pray Funeral Home, Inc. • 401 West Seminary Street 401 West Seminary Street Charlotte, MI 48813
Phone: 517-543-2950 • Toll-free: 1-888-825-8527