When people without assets pass away, Morrison County covers the cost of burial. Now, the county is looking at changing its policies on the issue.

At Tuesday’s planning session, Social Services Financial Assistance Supervisors Cyndi Bachan and Karen Szczodrowski outlined a plan to increase the amount the county pays funeral homes for the service, while decreasing the number of options.

Currently, the county offers a traditional earth burial and pays $3,210, traditional cremation, where the body is shown prior to cremation for $2,925 and cremation with memorial service for $2,250.

In 2018, the county spent $51,000 for burials and has currently spent more than $40,000 for 2019.

In both years, the county budgeted $35,000.

“Expenses have gone up,” Szczodrowski said.

Under the new plan, the county would offer earth burial within 72 hours and pay the funeral home up to $3,400 and if the individual or their family have no grave plot available, a cremation would be done within 72 hours at a rate of up to $2,500.

The last time the county increased the amount it pays funeral homes was 2011, Bachan said.

Having the burials sooner would address a problem the funeral homes have — the deceased staying with them for too long.

“The funeral home has been having to retain the bodies sometimes for extended periods and that has become an issue,” Bachan said.

Family members would also be able to work with the funeral home to purchase extra items for the funeral, such as a lunch or flowers or bulletins.

“It’s for extras we would never consider paying for,” Bachan said.

Currently, this is not allowed under policy, but the funeral homes were unaware of this, she said.

Before the county covers the cost of the burial, an application must be made and the county reviews the amount of assets the deceased and/or their wife have to see if they qualify.

Any assets are used to reduce the amount the county would pay.

Commissioner Randy Winscher said he knows from someone who is doing pre-burial arrangements that a funeral can cost upward of $10,000.

“Who covers the difference?” he asked.

When doing this for the county, funeral homes are doing the work essentially at cost and using low-cost caskets, Szczodrowski said.

Commissioner Mike Wilson said he likes the idea of allowing families to purchase extra services.

“This gives the people the right to add on if they want extra things,” Wilson said. “I think that sounds pretty good if I want to throw $1,000 on or something.”

The proposal will be brought to the Board for formal approval at an upcoming meeting.

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