The county is required by state law to provide such assistance, but Cherokee only now has a process for determining indigence.
Under the new policy, funeral homes can make requests to the county. County Manager Jerry Cooper said the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office investigates any requests for indigent burial assistance, and the county manager has final approval to give up to $1,000. The assistance is only available when there is no person financially able and no estate to defray costs of burial.
“The county is the last resort under the law,” Cooper said.
If a deceased person is found indigent, up to $1,000 can be paid to a funeral home, or the county can provide for burial at Pine Knot Cemetery, a county-owned pauper’s cemetery. Funds from Cherokee County are only available to those who die within the county, according to state law.
When Cooper presented the policy at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, County Commissioner Karen Bosch said she had been concerned that people with the ability to pay had been asking for burial assistance.
“I’ve talked to several people who told me how the system was being worked,” she said.
Cooper said he receives about four or five requests a year for indigent burial assistance.
“What we have now is a pretty comprehensive application. Determination of indigence is going to be a little tougher,” Cooper said. “In accordance with state law, if any family member (spouse, parent or child) can pay, they are responsible.”
The application for assistance includes questions about the deceased person’s income, bank accounts, veteran status, income of spouses, parents and children, assets and any government benefits the deceased received.
Cooper said the marshal’s office piloted the process on a recent request.
Commissioners unanimously approved adopting the policy at Tuesday’s commission meeting.