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In 2018, seven people died in Catoosa County with no way to pay for a funeral. In 2019, there were six.

In all 13 cases, the county was able to provide the means for a burial or cremation.

Georgia state law requires that counties provide sufficient financial assistance for a "decent burial or cremation" for asset-less people who die within the county. Action by the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 28 now streamlines the process.

Before the board unanimously approved a resolution adopting policies and procedures for indigent funeral assistance, there were no applications or forms that outlined the process.

Part of the assistance includes proper transportation of the deceased to the funeral home or crematorium and to a grave site or delivery of cremains to next of kin.

Carol Roberts, the county's chief finance officer, recommended the allocated financial assistance be increased from $450 to $550 based on rising funeral costs.

In 2017, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial was about $7,360, and $6,260 for a funeral with viewing and cremation, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Per Catoosa's new resolution, burial is only considered for those with direct objections to cremation based on religious grounds.

Roberts said many funeral homes in the county have handled these cases in the past, but there was no official list.

Now, the person who submits the application for indigent burial or cremation must choose a funeral home or crematorium from an approved list. The county should have no role in choosing, according to the resolution.

"The policy adopted last night will require a funeral home to complete an application if they desire to be a participating funeral home," she wrote in a follow-up email.

The county has allocated $5,000 annually for the past several years, Roberts said, and it is listed as line item "E1005410-573100 Paupers."

Contact Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6423.

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