Sask. government backtracks, says it will pay for some funeral services for poor
The provincial government has reconsidered its decision to cut funeral services for social service recipients.
The government had been paying up to $3,800 to cover basic funeral expenses, but slashed costs by almost half in the recent budget. Now, the government has reconsidered that decision.
While the flat fee to cover basic expenses will continue to be reduced to $2,100, the government will now also provide up to $700 for funeral services, up to $700 for embalming and up to $925 for cremation fees.
However, compensation for travel beyond 20 kilometres has been reduced to match the current government rate of 42.83 cents per kilometre.
“Instead of being a $1-million savings, it's going to be a $400,000 savings,” said Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor.
“In addition to the issue of funeral services, we've also addressed two other concerns that the industry itself had and so, I would say that government has made a very earnest effort to try to meet them in a compromise.”
While the Saskatchewan Board of Funeral Homes is pleased with some of the revisions, the board says the province is asking the industry to subsidize the government.
“We are very disappointed that we've been asked as a profession and an industry to provide those services to communities at a loss,” said Phil Fredette with the Saskatchewan Board of Funeral Homes.
Furthermore, the board said the industry was providing services below operating costs even before budget changes were announced.
“We continue to provide services as we always do. We never say no,” said Fredette. “But, we do need our small businesses to be taken care of; otherwise, we can't be in business to serve people.”
The government said it plans to meet with the board to discuss the changes and concerns, as well as look for compromises in the next budget cycle.