Almost every state has some kind of bereavement benefit program for assisting low-income residents. These subsidies are generally county-specific and the amount is usually minimal, barely covering direct cremation or burial. Additionally, because it is government money, you can be sure they’ll make you bend over backwards to prove you really need it, so be sure to study the fine print!
Word to the wise – when seeking assistance through your home state, county, or local township, it is important to consider your status, as well as that of the deceased, regarding social security or veterans benefits. Why? Federal assistance supersedes local aid. As such, local programs will take into account any other anticipated compensation from outside sources when determining eligibility. For example, in New York City, you have the ability to receive up to $900 back on a funeral of up to $1,700. However, if the deceased is eligible for veteran burial allowance ($762), the maximum the city will award you is $138.
In the spirit of lending a neighborly hand, we’ve compiled a list of programs (hopefully) in your area. If available, the summary of each state contains information specific to the counties located within its largest city.
Alabama has no state-funds, only county level programs. The level of assistance varies by county (generally around $400), and is based on the finances of surviving family.
One state program, General Relief Assistance (GRA), covers the state of Alaska. Funds are available only if there are no other resources, and if this lack facilitates an immediate emergency. Eligibility is determined based on the deceased’s county/town of residence, and Tribal membership status. From what I can see in this 2017 application, GRA is capped at $1,250 for funeral services.
Where to go: Visit the GRA page of Alaska’s government services site for phone numbers and to download an application. PRO TIP – the last page of the application has numbers, addresses, and emails for each county’s public assistance office.
For Tribal Members: Additional avenues of funding exist for Native Alaskans. Please consider contacting the Bristol Bay Native Association, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, or the Association of Village Council Presidents.
Arizona does not offer state-funded assistance. Some limited assistance is offered on the county-level. Eligibility is determined on an at-need basis, and, in Maricopa County (Phoenix), can only be referred by a funeral home that is contracted with the County Fiduciary care for indigent and abandoned cases. As such, payments go directly to the funeral home after services are performed.
Where to go: Directly contact the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary to receive a list of applicable funeral homes.
There are no state or county level programs for assistance on Arkansas. County Judges have access to a “Pauper’s Fund” which can be used for indigent funeral expenses. Obviously, this amount will vary case to case and county.
Where to go: Use the county locator on the website for the Arkansas Association of Counties. From there you will be able to find contact information for your county judge.
Shocking to no one, California has a more robust system than the majority of states. Each county is still responsible for managing burial funds, but they’re slightly more generous in offering a simple cremation or burial with a service. Additionally, for those who have lost someone due to a crime, California has a Victim Compensation Board, which provides funding up to $7,500 for funeral services. However, some caveats do apply, which you can read more about on their site.
In Los Angeles County specifically, the Coroner’s office accepts applications for assistance from families experiencing financial hardship. There are limits to the funding available, and designations are assigned on a case-by-case basis.
Where to go: Here’s an Application for ‘County Disposition’ in Los Angeles County. It contains the necessary phone/fax numbers, should you have specific questions or to submit your forms. For more general information, follow this link to the Medical Examiner’s FAQ.
Colorado has a county-administered human services system (seeing a theme yet?). Naturally, this aid varies depending on county, as well as veteran, social security, and Medicaid status. As of writing Douglas county provides $1,500 for eligible Medicaid recipients and $1,000 for those on social security. However, the family’s ability to contribute is absolutely taken into consideration, and spending limits apply. For example, in Douglas county, you might be awarded $1,500, but your total funeral cannot exceed $2,500.
If you live in Denver, burial assistance is available through the city’s Human Services office. You must call and schedule an intake appointment to be evaluated for eligibility.
Where to go: To determine your loved one’s aid level, use the Colorado Department of Human Services contact directory.
There are no county aid programs in Connecticut. They only offer aid through two state programs, Aid to Families with Dependent Children ($1,200 as of 2016) and Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD). For qualified cases, Social services will fund up to $1,400 toward expenses for those with limited means.
Where to go: Visit the Connecticut Department of Social Services website for details on how to apply and read up on any fine print.
Limited state assistance is available for those who qualify. Information is not easy to find, but various sources present a wide variance of $400-1,500 toward burial in one of Delaware’s “pauper cemeteries.” Like any other state, certain qualifications must be met and other benefits (social security or veteran status) will be taken into account.
Where to go: You can visit the Delaware Division of Social Services website, or call them at (302) 255-9040.
Like all other things Florida-related, their method of distributing aid is … unique. There is no state program, rather folks are assisted through a federal program, that is then administered on the county level, who then contract with specific funeral homes. Applications must be made to the county where the deceased lived. Certain guidelines must be met, or the deceased must be a victim of a crime.
Where to go: Visit the Florida Department of Health website to locate your county, and contact your local office for further assistance.
In the state of Georgia, rather than county of residency, the county in which the death occurred will determine the eligibility and amount of assistance available for a given family. The amount ranges from $350-1,200, and is processed by the Department of Human Services, Division of Family & Children Services.
In Atlanta, you can directly contact the Coordinator for Indigent Burial to start an application for a loved one who has passed in Fulton county.
Where to go: View this list of DFCS locations to find your county’s local office. To contact the state DFCS office, call (404) 657-3433.
Hawaii cares for its residents on a state level under one, aptly titled program “Funeral Program Payment.” Like all the others, there is an application process and parameters that must be met for approval. Benefits are limited to two equal categories of payment, $400 for funeral expenses, and $400 for burial. Any other expenses incurred must be paid by surviving family.
Where to go: Visit the Hawaii Department of Human Services website for general program information – it’s buried in there (no pun intended), so you really have to look. I’ve extracted the rules, if anyone wants to read them. If you have specific questions, reach out to Hawaii DOH at (855) 643-1643.
Families can seek assistance through their county’s Indigent Services office. Resources vary by county, and range from $700-1,200. Unlike other applications on this list, requests can be submitted by family or funeral directors, but it must be done before disposition (cremation, burial, etc) is completed.
Where to go: For residents of Ada County (Boise), you can access your county’s application here. For other Idaho residents, you could visit Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare website, or call 1-877-456-1233 with any specific questions.
Illinois offers assistance on the state level through a few different programs, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Aid for the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD), and All Kids Assist, among others. While counties don’t have their own programs, claims can be filed at county Family Community Resource Centers. Who can file these claims? The funeral home, cemetery, or a person who is not the legal next of kin, but paid for the funeral services. There are two areas of benefits: $1,103 for formal funeral services (visitation, mass, etc); $552 for cremation or burial.
Where to go: For specific guidelines on who qualifies, please visit the Funeral and Burial Unit of the Illinois state website, or call (217) 785-2679.
Indiana has a couple different options for folks seeking aid, but both are pretty restrictive. The state program is only available to those who are enrolled in specific categories of Medicaid. If you go the state route, funeral homes and cemeteries must file on behalf of needy families within 90 days of the deceased’s passing. Indiana will pay up to $1,200 for formal funeral services and $800 for burial. On a local level, some counties, but not all counties, offer additional assistance. The information is difficult to find online, so it is best to reach out to your local Family and Social Services Administration for details.
Funding is sparse in Iowa. County aid varies and is generally capped at $400, eligibility is informed by Federal Poverty Guidelines, and the application must be filed within 60 days of the date of passing in the county where the death occurred.
Where to go: For De Moines residents, the cremation application can be found here. For non-residents, please reach out to the Iowa Department of Human Services via (800) 972-2017.
Unfortunately, Kansas doesn’t have any formal programs for burial assistance – state or local. The last program was disbanded from lack of funding in 2010.
Where to go: You can try reaching out to the Kansas department of Health and Environment via (785) 296-1500.
Kentucky offers aid by county. Amounts vary wildly depending on the county. If the county in question has a municipal cemetery, the grave purchase itself may be covered, but likely not the additional cost of opening that grave.
Where to go: It’s best to contact your county coroner or funeral home to get detailed information on how to apply for aid. For residents of Jefferson County, you can contact the Indigent Burial/Cremation Assistance office by calling (502) 574-6262.
Louisiana doesn’t offer a formal program for aid – state or local. There are some crumbs here and there suggesting that assistance may be available through some parish coroner’s offices.
Where to go: Visit the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office website for a list of participating funeral homes.
Maine provides for needy families through their state General Assistance Program, which is administered through a given municipality, and paid directly to the applying funeral home. There are two areas of benefit, up to $785 for cremation, and $1,125 for burial. Be aware that the barrier for entry is quite high, as their algorithm takes a number of financial factors in to consideration when determining eligibility, like family resources, the deceased’s estate, veteran status, etc.
Where to go: For detailed background information, it is best to directly contact your district General Assistance Office. To get a feel for the paperwork involved, the Maine Welfare Directors Association has forms available for the cities of Lewiston, Biddeford, and general state applications.
Maryland Department of Human Services distributes aid to eligible families in need. Grants are generally capped at $650, and there is a strict spending limit of $2,500.
Massachusetts offers assistance to those who are already enrolled in other state-sponsored programs. The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) provides up to $1,100 of assistance to the applying funeral home while maintaining a spending limit of $3,500. Naturally, the deceased’s assets will be appraised against any available aid.
Where to go: There isn’t much information available on the DTA’s website. For specific questions, you can contact their offices at (877) 382-2363.
Michigan administers aid through the Home and Burial Services program, a subset of their Department of Health and Human Services. Applications must be filed swiftly (within 10 days of passing), and the remains must be in Michigan. So, presumably, it would cover an out-of-state death, so long as the remains are transported into the state within the 10 day window. Like most states, the payout is very limited (generally about $600), and anything is deposited directly with the applying funeral home.
Where to go: For more detailed information and an actual chart of available funding options, visit the Michigan DHHS website.
Minnesota’s counties are responsible for providing aid to those in need. The available programming usually only extends itself toward a basic cremation, due to budgeting constraints, unless it can be proven that the deceased did not approve of cremation (religious exemption or other). Applications must be filed within 14 days of the deceased’s passing.
Residents of Hennepin County (Minneapolis) are awarded a maximum of $3,000 with a spending limit of $4,400. Please read their website carefully and see any embedded documents for a through outline of the application process.
Where to go: Reach out to your specific county for assistance by using this county office locator.
Mississippi does not have a central office for burial assistance to families in need. The only funding is earmarked for abandoned deceased, or those without personal assets. These cases are heard by the county administrator and are eventually cremated, as funding is very limited.
Where to go: Reach out to your county administrator’s office. Click here to review your local listing.
Missouri’s assistance program is a collaboration between three organizations: the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Funding is limited to $400 per application, and only available to indigent cases of abandoned deceased, or those with no personal assets.
For residents of Jackson County, the application must be endorsed by a funeral home and notarized.
Where to go: Contact the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, or call (417) 864-6199.
Funding in Montana is sparse. Not all counties contribute to indigent funeral or burial. Indeed, word on the street is that there are a select number of funeral homes that will assume the cost of basic cremation or burial, assuming a grave has already been purchased previously.
Where to go: Contact the local funeral home or coroner in your county. For a list of Montana coroners, click here.
Each county has its own General Assistance Program. The amount of aid varies, and is usually limited to basic services.
For residents of Douglas county, services are limited to cremation. You can visit their website for more information, but you must call to make an appointment to be evaluated for aid.
Where to go: Contact the General Assistance office in your county.
Assistance is available on the county level, but is generally restricted to cremation. The application myst be made in the county where the deceased resided.
For residents of Clark County (Las Vegas), funding is available to indigents or those who were sent outside the county specifically for nursing services. Additionally, applications can only be filed by third parties like funeral home, cemeteries, administrators, etc. Visit their website for more information.
Where to go: For a directory of county contacts, click here.
The city or town of the deceased’s residence is responsible, under state law, for the responsibility of burial expenses. The funeral home makes the application, and is paid whatever amount directly.
Where to go: The best place to start is with your local funeral home. You can also contact the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services at (844) 275-3447.
New Jersey offers assistance through the Department of Human Services. Interestingly, they have a sliding scale method of allocating aid based on age. The maximum benefit for formal funeral services is $2,246, and $524 for cemetery costs. Family contributions up to $1,570 are allowed, and will not affect the amount of aid awarded. Applications must be made through the funeral home.
For residents of Essex County, here is a pamphlet for where to apply and who is eligible.
Where to go: Arrangements for aid must be made through your funeral home of choice.
New Mexico offers flat assistance of $200 toward funeral services for those already receiving financial and medical assistance from other state programming, should no other funds be available. An additional $600 is occasionally available for special cases requiring burial. Obviously, family resources, insurance, pensions, and/or social security will be measured in determining eligibility.
For residents of Bernalillo County (Albuquerque), can visit their website for detailed information.
Where to go: Visit the New Mexico Human Services Department website, or call (800) 283-4465.
County or city of residence is responsible for assisting families in need. Eligibility and monetary assistance differs from location to location, and are capped at $1,250.
For residents of New York City, aid is administered by borough, and subject to spending limits. New York City requires that services not exceed $1,700 and has a maximum grant of $900. Applications can be made by family or funeral home, but must have the endorsement of the chosen funeral provider included in the application itself.
North Carolina does not have a formal program for distributing aid to families. Individual counties are only responsible for unclaimed remains.
For residents of Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) should contact the county medical examiner’s office to discuss available options.
Where to go: Directly contact your county’s Department of Human Services.
Aid is administered to North Dakota’s residents through each county’s General Assistance Program. Benefits, unfortunately, depend on the county in question and have a crazy range of anywhere from $300-$3,000.
For residents of Cass County (Fargo), here is an example of the assistance application.
Where to go: Contact your county social service office.
Township or county of residence is responsible for assisting qualified families in need. Eligibility is based on the definition of indigency (must not have an income of more than 150% of federal poverty guidelines). This guideline is not only for the decedent. It must also apply to surviving family applying for aid.
In Oklahoma each county is responsible for assisting its residents. Program referral must come from an affiliated funeral home or county medical examiner’s office. Predictably, funds are limited, so cremation is first choice unless extenuating circumstances prevent it.
For residents of Oklahoma County, the county’s website gives a brief overview of the program.
Where to go: To apply for benefits, contact your county administrator. Click here for a county directory.
Oregon has a program in conjunction with the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board which provides for burial of indigent and unclaimed decedents. A funeral home must make the application on behalf of the family. In addition to the joint program, some counties have addition aid available where both the deceased and next of kin are considered indigent.
Pennsylvania offers burial assistance to those who were already receiving social security or are eligible for cash benefits through the Department of Human Services prior to death. The maximum benefit is $750, which must be paid to an approved funeral home.
Where to go: Click to visit a directory of county HHS offices.
Rhode Island offers a maximum of $900 through their General Assistance program, administered through the Department of Human Service. The application must be filed within 30 days of the decedents’ passing.
South Carolina depends on its counties to distribute aid as needed. In most cases, assistance is limited to basic cremation.
Where to go: For more in depth information on available options, contact the county coroner or administrator. A directory of county officials can be found here.
Individual counties are bound by law to assist families. However, aid is lacking, and financial grants are generally limited to basic cremation.
For residents of Minnehaha County, there’s a guide where the program requirements are explained on page 11.
Where to go: Individual DSS offices are located throughout the state and can also help provide information. Click here for a directory of offices. The Department of Health in each individual county can also provide information and applications for aid. Click here for a directory of offices.
Many counties have stopped offering assistance due to lack of funding. Nashville offers burial assistance through its Metro Social Services office, and is available to all residents of Davidson County.
Where to go: To determine if your county offers assistance, please contact your county administrative office. A directory of county information can be found here.
Where to go: Contact your county administrator.
County assistance in Utah is limited, and generally restricted to basic cremation at an approved crematory.
For residents of Salt Lake County, the local medical examiner’s website lists the specifics of their program, the funeral homes they use, and other details.
Where to go: Contact your county administrator for details. For a directory, click here.
Vermont’s General Assistance Program is funneled down through each county. You can expect to receive approximately $1,000 to the funeral provider of your choice, and applications must be filed in person at the county office.
Where to go: You can visit the state’s website for a brief overview. For more specific inquiries, call Vermont Agency Family Services at (800) 479-6151.
Aid in Virginia is primarily reserved for residents who are already enrolled in its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The application must be filed within 30 days of the decedent’s passing in the county of residence with payment made directly to the funeral provider.
Residents of Lower Norfolk County (Virginia Beach) can expect a maximum grant of $500 with a spending limit of $2,500. Please see their website for more detailed information.
Where to go: Contact your local Social Services department. Click here for a directory.
Services in Washington are very limited and primarily designed to serve low-income and homeless veterans. Grant levels vary, but average around $300.
Residents of Kings County (Seattle), can visit their county’s website to read more about available options.
Where to go: To see if your county offers benefits contact your county’s Community Services Office. Find a directory of locations here.
West Virginia offers assistance through a state level Indigent Burial Program. Grants max out at $1,000, and is paid directly to the funeral provider. The application must be filed through each county’s Department of Health and Human Resources.
Where to go: Visit the state website to get more information on the Indigent Burial Program.
Wisconsin offers assistance through its Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program. To be eligible the deceased must be enrolled in at least one of the state’s other assistance programs, like Badger Care, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. Grants are available for two areas, $1,500 for unmet funeral expenses, and $1,000 for unmet cemetery or crematory charges.
Where to go: For detailed information and how to apply, visit Wisconsin’s DHS website.
Aid for Wyoming residents come from its Department of Family Services. Benefits for civilians are different from those for veterans. Vets should contact their county of residence to determine what benefits they’re eligible for outside of the Department. Civilians can expect granting up to $500.