What happens when your family can’t afford your funeral?

The city will work with funeral homes and crematories on assisting with costs associated with burials. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/Southside Daily)
The city will work with funeral homes and crematories on assisting with costs associated with burials. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — When a person dies a few things need to happen, namely the funeral arrangements and burial.

But what can a family do if they can’t afford a funeral for their loved one?

The city’s department of Human Services has funds set aside just for situations like these, when the family or friend is left to arrange the funeral but can’t cover the cost.

Theresa Fields, eligibility worker supervisor with the department of Human Services, said in Fiscal Year 2018 the city saw and approved 108 applications and dispensed $54,000 in city-allocated money to fund funerals for its residents.

The process of getting to those funds isn’t too difficult and only amounts to a little paperwork, an interview and eligibility requirements, she said.

If the deceased’s family members are looking for financial assistance from the city, the income and resource-based eligibility will be based on the finances of the deceased, Fields said.

Fields said the deceased individual must be unable to produce $2,250 at the time of death (including all assets and bank accounts) and had an income limit of less than $1,316 a month in order to be eligible for assistance.

Once that has been determined the city can then dispense the funds to the funeral home the family is working with.

The family has 30 days from the date of death to apply for assistance.

Anything beyond dispensing funds is up to the family members, Fields said. The city has no say in what kind of funeral or burial is chosen.

The funeral arrangements the family has planned cannot exceed $2,500 — the city will provide assistance totaling no more than $500 toward the funeral arrangements as long as the funeral arrangements are under that $2,500 limit, Fields said.

In the case of an unclaimed body, the sheriff’s office will work with the funeral home and the city on providing the correct paperwork and the city will reimburse the funeral home $500 for burial expenses.

Again, it is up to the individual funeral home as to how they’d like to use their $500.

Fields said a quarter or more of the applications that come through her office are from the sheriff’s office.

The 30-day limit does not apply in unclaimed body cases — the sheriff’s office needs time to thoroughly search for family members to claim the body, Fields said.

Where the money comes from

Any family that gets assistance from the city will get their money from the city’s General Release Funds or GR Funds.

That’s money allocated partially by the city and partially by the state for discretionary use on the city’s part, according to the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Once a family has been through the process they can expect to wait no longer than 30 days to receive their funding, Fields said.

“We want it to be as soon as possible,” she said, adding the department rarely denies an application.

To learn more about the General Relief Funds the City of Virginia Beach has, click here.

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