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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

Ohio cuts to cost city $25K more to bury the poor

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

State budget cuts approved last month will cost the city of Toledo about $25,000 more each year to bury the poor, city officials said.

The city spent an average of $7,520 on indigent burials each year from 1996 to 2000.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, through its county affiliates, formerly reimbursed funeral homes as much as $750 for every funeral to cover expenses.

After the budget cuts, the burden to aid with these services falls on cities and townships.

Now that state funding has been eliminated, Toledo will pay for an average of 30 additional indigent burials each year that the state formerly would have paid for, based on statistics for the last six years.

The city will include the cost in its budget for next year, Robert Casaletta, commissioner of parks, forestry, and open spaces, said.

“It's something that has to be done, so we don't think it will be a big problem to get the city to give us the funds,” he said.

But the state's funding cuts are a big problem for funeral homes, which get stuck covering funeral and burial costs when no one else will pay the bill.

“Now it's more of a burden for the city, but it's an even bigger burden for the funeral homes. The brunt of it falls back on the funeral director,” said Joe Abele, owner of the Abele Funeral Home, 1910 Cherry St.

The state cuts mean funeral homes get $350 less than before to help cover expenses for each indigent burial.

Lucas County handled 111 indigent burials from June, 2000, to June, 2001, according to the county's family services office.

Michigan passed similar budget reductions last week. The state now will pay funeral homes and cemeteries $1,160 for indigent burials, which is $300 less than before. Lawmakers promised to restore $150, or half the reduction, through a supplemental bill when the state legislature reconvenes in the fall. Between 6,500 and 7,000 people in Michigan qualify for indigent burials every year.

While the drop in state funds for indigent burials could cost larger cities like Toledo thousands of dollars, many small cities are unconcerned about extra costs. These smaller municipalities said they handle only two or three indigent burials a year.

“I certainly don't look at it to have a major impact on us,” said Jon Schamp, finance director for Wauseon.



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