State of Wisconsin Paid $8.4 Million for Funerals

(WSAW) – CBS WSAW conducted an eight month investigation into a state program that pays from funeral expenses for Wisconsin families.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services records, obtained by NewsChannel 7 Investigates, show the Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program reimbursed funeral homes and cemeteries across Wisconsin $8.4 million tax dollars last year.

This is supposed to be a last resort option for members of Wisconsin families too poor to afford funeral and cemetery services.

According to CBS WSAW, recipients must meet a qualifying factor-- enrollment in a public assistance program. If an applicant is not receiving aid from one of nine programs, including Medicaid, they are not eligible for reimbursement.

Read the full report here. 

NewsChannel 7 Investigates analyzed 11 northcentral Wisconsin counties receiving a total of $544,548 in WFCAP reimbursement funding, including: Adams, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Price, Taylor, Vilas and Wood counties.

According to CBS WSAW, some Wisconsin families are surprised to discover their deceased loved ones do not qualify for state aid to help pay for funeral and cemetery costs. It can end up leaving taxpayers, funeral home directors and cemetery operators with the bill.

Families think that aid means the state will also cover funeral expenses, and their loved one had no funeral savings. Their relief turns to panic when they discover their loved one’s state aid does not qualify for WFCAP assistance.

Portage County Corner Scott Rifleman Rifleman said that has happened twice this year in Portage County. Once that happens the body becomes the county's responsibility.

Now the county’s $3,200 taxpayer saving account, only meant to pay for, at most, four indigent burials, is out of money.

In total, paying for five people's final expenses so far this year means the county now has an $800 debt.

According to CBS WSAW, the local taxpayer is now paying another funeral bill, while the deceased's remains remain housed in the Portage County Coroner's Office. Unclaimed, because family members do not want to pay.

Read the full report here. 

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