New York State is now taking stronger action to help cover the direct and related costs of funerals for victims of murder.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he has signed legislation giving funeral homes permission to seek up to $6,000 in reimbursement for funeral expenses including burial fees, clergy fees, headstones, flowers or obituaries for homicide victims.
Under the terms of the previous policy, families of victims had to work on getting the reimbursement themselves, thereby obligating them to pay the costs upfront.
As noted by Crains New York, Cuomo explained that the bill’s purpose is to give family members "some peace of mind" at a difficult time.
Before they become eligible for the governmental assistance, victims' families must use up existing insurance policies or funeral coverage plans.
In the last fiscal year the state's Office of Victim Services paid out more than $1.8 million in funeral expenses.
To a great extent, funeral costs have been rising, and one key reason is the increasing lack of burial space. At Green-Wood Cemetery, the largest in Brooklyn at 478 acres, a single grave plot, which can encase three caskets, costs $17,000, up from $8,000 to $10,000 a decade ago. Space is getting harder to come by - Green-Wood management estimates it will have no more in-ground burial space in about five years.
Trinity Graveyard and Mausoleum in Washington Heights is the only Manhattan cemetery still open for new burials, but it has space only in above-ground mausoleums. Prices begin at $18,900 for a crypt. Crypts in the $9,000 to $12,000 range, available a decade ago, have sold out by this point.
At Woodlawn Cemetery, a spread-out 400-acre site in the Bronx, a plot for one person costs $8,000 and a plot for two people costs $10,000, double the prices of a decade ago.
Staten Island’s largest burial ground, Moravian Cemetery, does not sell plots in advance. An in-ground plot for two interments costs $5,800, which is 5% more than a decade ago.
Another reason for rising funeral costs is the issue of gentrification, which drives up real estate prices until a funeral home’s property is more valuable than its business. For just two examples, there are the 2014 sales of Michael Cosgrove & Son funeral home (established 1912) in Sunset Park for $2.125 million and Dominic J. Cusimano Court Street Funeral Home (established 1946) in Cobble Hill for $4.55 million. Funeral homes in Prospect Heights and Harlem also sold at high prices. Most of these funeral homes were sold to developers and will be transformed into new residential and retail buildings.