Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature

Democrats Propose Reforms to Indigent Burial Program: Restoration of Burial Assistance Funding Also Sought

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Rochester, New York – July 10, 2012.  Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature today introduced legislation to reform the indigent burial program, which has recently been the subject of controversy. The legislation will enhance the minimum standards under which final arrangements can be made for a decedent and restore grant funding to help needy families with burial arrangements.

Democratic Legislator Cindy Kaleh (D-Rochester), the sponsor of one of the proposals, said, “This legislation is an important step in restoring trust that this County can treat even its most vulnerable citizens with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Not only will this legislation provide clear standards, but it will also ensure that cemeteries dealing with the county must keep their grounds and decedent graves in reasonable condition.”

Among the many reforms contained in the Democratic Legislation are requirements that the Monroe County Human Services Commissioner ensure that cemeteries contracting with the County make every effort to maintain their ground equitably for all plots, including proper drainage, lawn care, marker maintenance and visibility.

The proposals would also restore funding to the County’s Burial Assistance Program, which provides assistance when someone passes away with little or no resources. In 2006, the Brooks Administration cut the grant amount from $1,850 to $1,250. This has the serious potential of having individuals forced into being cremated because of funding constraints, even if cremation is in violation of the decedent’s religious beliefs. Democrats will restore the funding by eliminating the vacant position of Assistant County Executive and cutting county vehicles, cell phones and office supplies.

Assistant Democratic Leader Willie Joe Lightfoot (D-Rochester), said, “We are very pleased to have worked with our friends at the House of Mercy to come up with recommendations that will help protect residents of our community from substandard care. It is our hope that these reforms will gain the support of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle so we can work in a bipartisan manner to address these issues of concern to our community. With the restoration of this funding, we can help restore this important quality of life service.”