Getting Help With Funeral Costs

Losing a friend or family member is one of the most difficult parts of the human experience, and unfortunately the high cost of funeral, burial and memorial services can make this period even harder to deal with. Fortunately, there are many potential options to take advantage of when it comes to getting help with funeral costs. In this article, we highlight various ways you can receive financial relief at either the federal level or state and local municipality level and also review some other methods for raising funeral funds.

Federal Assistance

There are a few ways in which you can receive help with funeral costs from the federal government.

Social Security

If your parent or spouse has recently deceased and they were receiving Social Security benefits, then Social Security may offer a one-time death settlement of $255. This amount is not much compared to the overall cost of funeral and burial/cremation services, but can cover a small portion of your expenses such as floral arrangements or an obituary. Typically your funeral home will contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding your loved one, but you may also directly contact the SSA or visit a local office to apply for this benefit.

Social Security also offers what’s known as “Survivors Benefits”. Survivors Benefits are paid to widows, widowers, and children of someone who was eligible for social security retirement benefits. Note that you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online and must call or visit an SSA office location.

Widows and widowers can receive:

  • reduced benefits as early as age 60 or full benefits after reaching full retirement age.
  • benefits as early as age 50 if they’re disabled AND their disability started before or within seven years of their spouse’s death.
  • benefits at any age, if they have not remarried, and if they take care of your child who is under age 16 or disabled and receives benefits on your record.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA offers burial assistance to victims who have either died as a direct or indirect result of a Presidentially-declared disaster. An example of a direct death would be getting killed by a hurricane destroying their home. An example of an indirect death would be if someone with high blood pressure died of a heart attack during the hurricane. Note that in order to receive assistance from FEMA, you will need to provide proof that other kinds of financial aid have not been enough to cover your expenses.

FEMA’s burial assistance can help with the following items:

  • Paying for a casket or cremation urn
  • Paying for mortuary services
  • Paying for up to five death certificates
  • Paying for a burial plot or cremation niche
  • Paying for a grave marker, headstone or tombstone in either a public cemetery or private burial site

United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

Military veterans are entitled to an array of funeral and burial assistance benefits designed to help with funeral costs, including a free burial in a national cemetery with a grave marker. In addition, their spouses and children are also entitled to a plot and marker within a national cemetery. Usually the only cost that the family must cover is transportation.

Veterans may also be eligible for military honors, burial flags, headstones and gravemarkers, and Presidential Memorial Certificates at no additional cost to their families. However, if the burial is in a private cemetery, then only the veteran is eligible for those items and not their spouse or other family members.

Here’s a summary of service-related and non-service-related death benefits that veterans are eligible for through the VA.

Service-related Death:

  • Deaths occurring on or after September 11, 2001: The VA will pay up to $2,000 towards burial expenses.
  • Deaths prior to September 11, 2001: The VA will pay up to $1,500 toward burial expenses.
  • If the burial is in a national cemetery, some portion of the deceased’s transportation may be covered.

Non-service-related Death:

  • Deaths occurring on or after October 1, 2017: The VA will pay up to $762 if hospitalized at the time of death. If not hospitalized, the VA will pay $300 toward burial or funeral expenses. If not buried in a national cemetery, the VA will also pay a $762 plot-interment allowance.
  • Deaths on or after December 1, 2001, but before October 1, 2011: The VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance. 
  • Deaths on or after April 1, 1988, but before October 1, 2011: The VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses for veterans hospitalized at the time of death.

State and Local Assistance

Your state of residence may offer funeral assistance programs to help your family pay for funeral expenses. These benefit amounts can vary and are usually only for those with no other means to pay for their loved one’s funeral services. The majority of these funds are provided at the local level and you must apply and be approved before receiving any benefits.

Alabama

  • State Resources: Alabama does not provide financial assistance for funerals. By law (Section 38-8-2 of the Alabama Code), Alabama counties are financially responsible for the burial of unclaimed or indigent bodies.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Degree of assistance varies by county and based on the financial capacity of the family. The amount available rarely exceeds $400.
  • To Apply: Contact The Alabama Department of Human Resources in your county.

Alaska

  • State Resources: Alaska can help with funeral costs through the General Relief Assistance (GRA) program.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Eligibility for assistance via the GRA depends on the deceased’s county of residence. It also depends on tribal membership. GRA benefits are limited to $2,500.
  • To Apply: Contact The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Assistance at (907) 376-3903.

Arizona

  • State Resources: Arizona does not offer financial assistance for funeral or burial costs. Assistance can be found at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Eligibility is based on financial need. Forms must be submitted at the local level and funds are paid directly to the funeral home.
  • To Apply: N/A

Arkansas

  • State Resources: Arkansas does not offer financial assistance for funeral or burial costs. Counties are responsible for providing assistance.
  • County/Municipality Resources: County judges have access to a “Pauper’s Fund” which is used to assist the indigent with funeral costs.
  • To Apply: Contact your county judge through The Association of Arkansas Counties.

California

  • State Resources: California does not offer assistance with funeral or burial costs except for when the death falls under a victim’s compensation claim. Assistance is handled at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Assistance varies by county, but can include basic funeral or cremation services. In most cases, to qualify for assistance, the deceased must be qualified as indigent.
  • To Apply: For information, visit The California Department of Health Care Services website.

Colorado

  • State Resources: Funeral assistance in Colorado is provided at the county level. Medicaid recipients are eligible for $1,500 in aid, and Social Security recipients are eligible for $1,000.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Benefits may vary depending on the deceased’s military, Medicaid and Social security status. The family’s contribution is taken into consideration.
  • To Apply: For information, contact your county’s Department of Human Services. For contact information visit The Colorado Department of Human Services website.

Connecticut

  • State Resources: Connecticut offers funeral and burial assistance to those covered under Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD). As of 2016, the maximum benefit available is $1,000 and you must apply to determine if you’re eligible.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact The Connecticut Department of Social Services at 800-203-1234.

Delaware

  • State Resources: Delaware offers limited burial assistance and certain eligibility requirements must be met. Indigent individuals may receive $400 – $1,500 towards burial in a state pauper cemetery. The deceased’s eligibility for other benefits such as Social Security or Veteran Aid are also taken into account.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact Delaware Health and Social Services at (302) 255-9040.

Florida

  • State Resources: In Florida The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for providing burial services for unclaimed bodies and those living in poverty. This help is provided at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Burial assistance can be applied for through the county in which the deceased was a resident. The deceased must have either been a victim of a crime or meet the poverty requirements to qualify for benefits.
  • To Apply: Contact The Florida Department of Health at (850) 245-4444.

Georgia

  • State Resources: Georgia offers no direct help with funeral or burial costs. Help is provided at the county level to those who are indigent or unable to provide for interment.
  • County/Municipality Resources: The Department of Human Services, Division of Family & Children Services in the county of death is responsible for determining eligibility for assistance.
  • To Apply: Contact The Georgia Department of Family & Children Services at (404) 657-3433.

Hawaii

  • State Resources: Hawaii offers assistance with burial costs under a program called “Funeral Program Payment.” Benefits are limited to $400 for funeral costs and $400 for burial costs.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact The Hawaii Department of Human Services at (855) 643-1643.

Idaho

  • State Resources: Idaho offers help with funeral or burial expenses at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Help is offered through County Indigent Services and applications must be made in the county of residence.
  • To Apply: Contact The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare at 1 (877) 456-1233.

Illinois

  • State Resources: Illinois offers assistance to those receiving assistance from programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD), and All Kids Assist. Claims should be submitted by your funeral home, cemetery or a person who’s paying for the funeral or burial and isn’t legally responsible for the deceased.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Claims can be made through your county’s Family Community Resource Centers.
  • To Apply: Contact The Illinois Department of Human Services at (217) 785-2679.

Indiana

  • State Resources: Indiana provides assistance for those eligible through Medicaid. Funeral homes and cemeteries file for assistance on behalf of the deceased and claims must be submitted within 90 days of the time of death. All payments are sent directly to the funeral service provider.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Local townships can also offer assistance. You should contact your local Family and Social Services Administration for details.
  • To Apply: Contact The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration at (800) 403-0864.

Iowa

  • State Resources: Iowa provides assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Aid varies by county and eligibility is determined by federal poverty guidelines. Applications must be submitted within 60 days of the time of death to the county of residence.
  • To Apply: Contact The Iowa Department of Human Services at (800) 972-2017.

Kansas

  • State Resources: Kansas offers limited assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: No formal programs exist for help with burial or funeral costs, however, some counties do offer a limited amount of assistance.
  • To Apply: Contact The Kansas Department of Health and Environment at (785) 296-1500.

Kentucky

  • State Resources: Kentucky has no state-level program to assist with funeral and burial costs. Some counties offer help, but resources vary based on county.
  • County/Municipality Resources: If a county has a municipal cemetery, the burial may be covered, but the cost of opening and closing the grave may not be covered.
  • To Apply: Contact the coroner in your county or a local funeral director.

Louisiana

  • State Resources: Louisiana parishes have procedures for providing burial assistance to the indigent.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Resources vary by parish.
  • To Apply: Contact your parish coroner’s office or a local funeral director for information on funeral and burial assistance.

Maine

  • State Resources: Maine offers assistance with burial and cremation under the Maine General Assistance Program which is administered at the local municipality level. Your funeral director should submit the application on behalf of the deceased and will receive the benefits payment directly.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact your district’s General Assistance office for help.

Maryland

Massachusetts

  • State Resources: If you receive state aid or assistance you may be eligible for funeral and burial assistance. Assistance is paid directly to the funeral home.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Your funeral home must apply for benefits through The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance. For more information contact (877) 382-2363.

Michigan

  • State Resources: Michigan offers assistance through The Home & Burial Services program. Applications must be made within 10 business days of the time of death and remains must reside in the state of Michigan. Payment is paid directly to the funeral director.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services at (855) 275-6424.

Minnesota

  • State Resources: Minnesota provides assistance with funerals and burials at the county level. The program covers basic cremation unless you can show that the deceased did not want to be cremated.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Eligibility is based on financial need and the municipality may attempt to recover funds from the deceased’s estate if there is one. Applications must be submitted within 14 days of the time of death.
  • To Apply: Contact The Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services at 651-431-2000.

Mississippi

  • State Resources: Mississippi does not provide assistance with funeral or burial. Limited assistance is available at the county level and benefits are only available to those who die without family assets.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Most assistance is limited to simple cremation and eligibility is determined by the county administrator.
  • To Apply: Contact The Mississippi Department of Human Services at (601) 359-4500.

Missouri

  • State Resources: Missouri offers no state assistance for funeral or burial, but some aid is offered at the county level under The Indigent Burial and Funeral Fund.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Payment is only made in the case of the indigent, someone with no estate and no family to cover costs.
  • To Apply: Contact The Community Foundation of the Ozarks at (417) 864-6199.

Montana

  • State Resources: Montana does not provide assistance with funeral or burial costs. Help may be offered by the county or municipality where the deceased lived, but not all counties contribute to indigent funeral or burials.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Assistance varies by county and city, with some municipalities offering no assistance whatsoever.
  • To Apply: Contact a local funeral home or Montana coroner in your county.

Nebraska

  • State Resources: Nebraska may offer assistance depending on the county through The General Assistance Program.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Qualification for the program is based on financial need and funding is limited to basic services.
  • To Apply: Contact The General Assistance Program agency in your county of residence. You can also contact The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services at (402) 471-3121.

Nevada

  • State Resources: Nevada offers funeral and burial expenses at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: The level of assistance offered varies from county to county, but in most cases the amount provided is for direct cremation services.
  • To Apply: Contact The Nevada Health and Human Services at (775) 684-4000.

New Hampshire

  • State Resources: New Hampshire does not offer funeral or burial assistance. According to New Hampshire law, the city of residence is responsible for providing help when the deceased has no assets or family to help cover funeral and burial costs.
  • County/Municipality Resources: The municipality will pay benefits directly to the funeral home.
  • To Apply: Start with a local funeral home or contact The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services at (844) 275-3447.

New Jersey

  • State Resources: New Jersey offers assistance with funeral and burial expenses through the Department of Human Services. Eligibility is determined based on need and is allocated on a sliding scale based on age.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Arrangements and application must be made through a funeral home, but you may also contact The New Jersey Department of Human Services at (609) 588-2000.

New Mexico

  • State Resources: New Mexico will provide up to $200 toward funeral expenses for those receiving financial and medical assistance if there are no funds available. Up to $600 may be available for burial expenses.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Assistance may be available through individual funeral homes. Contact your local funeral director for more details.
  • To Apply: Contact The New Mexico Department of Human Services at (800) 283-4465.

New York

  • State Resources: New York offers help through the county or city of residence.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Eligibility for county assistance varies by county and city. Note that New York City (NYC) offers assistance at the borough level. NYC requires that services not exceed $1,700 and assistance is limited to a maximum of $900.
  • To Apply: For a listing of counties in New York state visit http://www.ny.gov/counties. For information on the NYC program call 212-NEW-YORK or visit http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/faq/393/how-do-i-get-help-paying-for-a-funeral.

North Carolina

  • State Resources: North Carolina does not provide assistance with funerals and burials. Individual counties are responsible for unclaimed bodies.
  • County/Municipality Resources: No statewide programs exist. Your county of residence may offer some limited assistance.
  • To Apply: N/A.

North Dakota

  • State Resources: North Dakota offers limited assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Funeral and burial assistance is handled through The North Dakota General Assistance Program which can help cover a basic funeral or cremation.
  • To Apply: Contact The North Dakota Department of Human Services at (701) 328-2310.

Ohio

  • State Resources: Ohio residents can receive assistance through their township or county of residence if the deceased is considered to be indigent and there is no one to cover expenses.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Generally, the deceased must have an income within federal poverty guidelines. If the deceased is claimed, certain eligibility requirements are also established for the family members.
  • To Apply: Contact your county or township government. 

Oklahoma

  • State Resources: Oklahoma offers assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Assistance varies from county to county and it should also be noted that there are programs available to members of the Native American Nation.
  • To Apply: Contact your county administrator. A directory can be found here.

Oregon

  • State Resources: Oregon has a program with the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board which helps with burial costs of unclaimed indigent individuals. An application must be made through your funeral home.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Contact a local funeral home to apply for assistance for you. If the deceased is of Native American heritage, the tribe might have an assistance program.
  • To Apply: Contact your local coroner for information on assistance programs. Click here for a directory of counties in Oregon. Information on the program for indigent burials can be found here.

Pennsylvania

  • State Resources: Pennsylvania offers burial benefits to those receiving assistance through Social Security or who are eligible for benefits through The Department of Human Services before death. Nursing home residents who have received state or Supplemental Security Income assistance since 1973 are also eligible. The program is administered through local county offices and benefits are paid to the funeral director.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact your county Department of Health office. A directory listing of local offices can be found here.

Rhode Island

  • State Resources: Rhode Island offers assistance with burial costs through their General Assistance program. The program is administered through the Department of Human Services and applications have to be sent within 30 days of the time of death.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact your local Department of Human Services office. A directory can be found here.

South Carolina

  • State Resources: South Carolina offers limited assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Benefits vary from county to county, and in most cases assistance is limited to the cost of basic cremation.
  • To Apply: Contact the county coroner or administrator. A directory of county officials can be found here.

South Dakota

  • State Resources: South Dakota offers assistance to deceased indigent residents for funeral and burial expenses.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Aid varies by county and eligibility is determined on financial status and is often limited to basic cremation without services.
  • To Apply: Contact The South Dakota Department of Social Services at (605) 773-3165. A directory of local offices can be found here.

Tennessee

  • State Resources: Tennessee offers some assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Aid varies by county, but it should be noted that Nashville offers burial assistance through its Metro Social Services office.
  • To Apply: Contact your county office. A directory can be found here.

Texas

  • State Resources: Texas offers limited assistance at the county level, but assistance is primarily for veterans.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Assistance varies from county to county.
  • To Apply: Contact your county administrator. A directory can be found here.

Utah

  • State Resources: Utah offers limited assistance at the county level.
  • County/Municipality Resources: In most counties, assistance is limited to basic cremation.
  • To Apply: Contact your county administrator. A directory of counties can be found here.

Vermont

  • State Resources: Vermont provides assistance with burial costs through its General Assistance program which is administered at the county level
  • County/Municipality Resources: Funds are paid directly to the funeral provider.
  • To Apply: Contact The Vermont Agency of Family Services at (800) 479-6151.

Virginia

  • State Resources: Virginia offers assistance with burial costs for members of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). An application can be sent through the county of residence and payments will be made directly to the funeral home.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Benefits vary by county.
  • To Apply: Contact The Virginia Department of Social Services at (804) 726-7000.

Washington

West Virginia

  • State Resources: West Virginia offers assistance through its Indigent Burial Program. Applications should be filled through The Department of Health and Human Resources.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources at (304) 558-0628.

Wisconsin

  • State Resources: Wisconsin offers assistance through its Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program. The deceased must be enrolled in one of a number of Wisconsin’s assistance programs to qualify. The deceased may also qualify if they’re enrolled in Medicaid.
  • County/Municipality Resources: N/A.
  • To Apply: Contact The Wisconsin Department of Human Services at (608) 266-1865.

Wyoming

  • State Resources: Wyoming offers help with funeral and burial costs through The Department of Family Services. Veterans can qualify for additional assistance.
  • County/Municipality Resources: Veterans should contact their county office to determine if they qualify for additional benefits on top of what’s offered by The Department of Family Services.
  • To Apply: Contact The Wyoming Department of Family Services at (307) 777-7561.

Other Fundraising Methods

If you don’t qualify for financial assistance or benefit funds to help with funeral costs from federal or state government sources, don’t give up hope just yet. Financial assistance can also come through from your social network if you’re in need.

  • Religious Organizations: Churches and other houses of worship can assist congregation members in covering burial costs from a benevolence fund or other fundraising event if you speak out about your financial situation.
  • Online Crowdfunding: Websites like Gofundme.com, Giveforward.com, and Fundly.com can serve as a platform for you to reach out to a larger audience across the world and raise funds for your loved one’s funeral, burial and/or memorial services.
  • Bank Memorial Funds: You can also set up a memorial fund with your bank and let your friends, family, co-workers and members of your congregation know about it so they can donate.