Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
As funeral costs rise and the economy continues to founder, many communities are seeing a rise in unclaimed bodies and funerals for indigent people.
The trend has been seen everywhere, and the reality is that it has gotten worse, says Jacqueline Byers, director of research and outreach for the National Association of Counties.
Many coroner’s offices report increases in the number of unclaimed bodies, according to a survey of members of the National Association of Medical Examiners. A little more than half of nearly 50 respondents cited an increase, according to the association’s data.
Johnnetta Moore, administrator for the indigent burial program in Jacksonville, says the economy is to blame for an upswing in cremations of indigent people this spring.
The city cremated 306 indigent people this fiscal year through July, with two months yet to go. That number is up from a total 297 and 241 in the previous two years.
Nevada’s Clark County has recorded a nearly 11% increase in indigent burials and cremations over the previous fiscal year, according to public information officer Dan Kulin.
Increasingly, counties are turning to cremations as a more affordable option than burials, Byers says, as fiscal hardships continue for state and local governments.
Even families who don’t qualify for indigent assistance programs are looking to spend less for burial costs.
Many families are looking for ways to reduce funeral expenses, says James Olson, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association and a funeral director in Sheboygan, Wis. They have certainly seen that families don’t have the funds available and more often are opting for less expensive funeral options.


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