Albany, NY - August 19, 2016 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation that will make it easier for families of homicide victims to get help from New York State to bury their loved ones.
“Families experiencing a sudden and tragic loss should not have to also face the burden of burial costs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This legislation will help give the family members of homicide victims some peace of mind as they say their final goodbyes. I thank the sponsors of this legislation for their work in getting this passed.”
Under current law, only an individual who paid or incurred the burial expenses – a family member or person who owned a funeral home – can be eligible for reimbursement from the New York State Office of Victim Services. Funeral homes, however, are often associated with larger businesses operated by boards instead of individual owners, and are prohibited from filing claims.
The bill (S.7191/A.9762) changes that, allowing funeral home businesses to pay for burial costs on behalf of a family and then recover those expenses from the Office of Victim Services, which provides a financial safety net for innocent crime victims and their family members. The Governor signed the legislation yesterday.
The Office of Victim Services can provide up to $6,000 for burial expenses. Those costs covered by the agency include funeral services, burial plot, the deceased’s burial outfit, clergy fees, transportation costs for the deceased, obituaries, head stone, flowers, death certificates, church fees for religious services and flowers.
By law, a homicide victim’s family must utilize any existing insurance or funeral expense protection before seeking assistance from OVS. Between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016, the agency approved 501 death claims. During this same period, OVS paid more than $1.8 million in funeral expenses.
Senator Patrick Gallivan said, “The loss of a loved one is devastating, especially when that person falls victim to crime. These changes give the families of crime victims peace of mind and takes the worry of funeral expenses off their shoulders during their time of mourning. They also ease the regulatory burden funeral home operators face when trying to meet the needs of these families. I thank the Governor for signing this bill into law, and Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes for her partnership.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “The amended statue allows funeral homes – whether owned by an individual or a corporation – to take on the burden of financial arrangements associated with a burial so families can concentrate on healing. This change to the law will bring relief to a family still reeling over the unexpected death of a loved one. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important piece of legislation into law and I thank co-sponsor Senator Patrick Gallivan for his work in getting it passed.”