Changes made to indigent burial policy

NORWICH – A policy change mandated by the New York State Department of Health recently led lawmakers into the sad discussion of burials for Chenango County’s deceased poor.

State law requires taxpayers to pay 95 percent of the cost of indigent burials and for counties to come up with a level of pay for them. The level of pay established in Chenango County back in 2006 was based on income eligibility guidelines for the federal cash assistance program. It also allowed friends and families to supplement at an amount of their choice.

Now, counties will pay a flat rate of $2,350 per funeral with contributions from family and friends limited to $3,000.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Bette Osborne, whose department oversees the program locally, said the previous policy was “convoluted” and led to individuals receiving assistance when they could otherwise pay.

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