What is a public assistance funeral?

Saving money on cremation costs

The poor economy has taken its toll on many American families, and as many struggle just to put food on the table, a death can be an additional financial strain. Fewer and fewer people are investing in funeral plans or burial insurance simply because savings and insurance policies are some of the first things to go during a financial crisis.


More often today at DFS Memorials, we are encountering distraught families who have found that a sudden bereavement has tipped them over the edge!  We are witnessing an increase in the number of folks seeking out financial help with funeral expenses and answering questions about what help there is to pay funeral costs.

What Financial Assistance is Available for Funeral Costs?

What kind of financial help there is varies considerably depending on where you live, what your personal circumstances are, and the circumstances of the deceased.  Some states/counties do still offer some public assistance with funeral costs, however, this is very limited these days.  A ‘public assistance’ funeral is where the state will contribute a fixed sum towards the cost of a funeral.  It is sometimes called a ‘welfare funeral.’

How do I Claim for Funeral Expenses Assistance?

Saving money on cremation costs

The state will pay a fixed amount, generally directly to the funeral director, to enable a basic burial or cremation. In some cases, the family can supplement the contribution.

If you are concerned about how you are going to pay for a funeral, you need to seek some guidance.  You may wish to consult your local county Human Services or Social Services department.  Sometimes, they will have a list of funeral homes handling public assistance funerals.   The funeral director will complete the necessary forms with you and submit his fees to the county for payment.

US Funerals Online has some helpful resources to assist families struggling with funeral costs. This Guide to Social Assistance by State will direct you to what may be available in your area.


This article explains more about What is an Indigent Funeral and Qualifying for State Assistance.

Be aware that if, for any reason, the application for support is declined, you will be liable for the funeral costs your funeral home has incurred regarding the funeral contract you have signed. You MUST ensure that you can raise sufficient funds to cover the expenses you are arranging.

Due to the rise in bad debt for funeral expenses, and the reduction in county support, some funeral homes are less willing to accept deceased family members where it is apparent the family may lack funds.  However, there are still funeral homes that do their utmost to help families care for their lost loved ones, no matter the unfortunate circumstances.  It IS important to ensure you are dealing with reputable funeral professionals who care about helping your family.

There are various financial support funds for deceased veterans and certain dependents, as well as victims of crime.

Helping families find affordable cremation & funeral services

Opt for a Low-Cost Direct Cremation to Minimize Cost

The best advice I can give to surviving families who cannot afford unexpected funeral expenses is to keep costs to a minimum by opting for a direct cremation service. This is a bare minimum (but simple and dignified) disposition option.

A direct cremation can be conducted in most metro areas for below $1,000. In fact, many specialist direct cremation providers offer a direct cremation service for around $795. Check out DFS Memorials Locations to find a provider near you and their direct cremation service charge.

Claiming the $255 Social Security Lump sum Death Benefit Payment

If the deceased qualifies, you can claim the $255 SS death benefit payment. The funeral director will usually help you submit this claim as part of his professional services. This can then be used to defray the total cost of a direct cremation funeral contract.

Cremation Authorizations & Requirements

Direct cremation handles the immediate need for a disposition at a low cost and allows the family to defer conducting a funeral or memorial service until such time as they feel they can manage additional costs. The family can even hold a memorial or ash scattering ceremony at a time and place that suits them and is inexpensive and personal.

This all really helps to keep funeral costs to a minimum but allows the family to feel they remain ‘in control’ of the disposition and memorialization of a loved one.

— Remember: If you have concerns about affording a funeral, try to keep your funeral costs minimal.  You can arrange a simple, dignified cremation and conduct your own family memorial, which can reduce your outlay to under $1,000 in many areas of the United States.

— Finally: This article about What Do I Do if I Cannot Afford a Funeral has some further useful advice.

Sara Marsden

I have been researching and writing about the death care industry for the last fifteen years. End of life services and experiences are something most of us choose not to reflect upon until we are suddenly faced with dealing with it. I have been contributing comprehensive and independent resources for families that explain how the funeral industry operates, and the laws that govern funeral practices. Sara writes for US Funerals Online and DFS Memorials LLC, as well as contributing to other forums and publications for the death care industry. I have a BA in Cultural Studies. This helps my analysis of cultural death care rituals, alongside a career background in Business Management. The death care industry is undergoing an epoch of change and this fascinates me.

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