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Activists To Push For More Funding For Funerals For Indigent

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A wooden casket containing unclaimed remains.  (Credit: Cook County Sheriff's Office)

A wooden casket containing unclaimed remains. (Credit: Cook County Sheriff’s Office)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – More than 150 ministers and funeral home directors – most of them centered in the black community – met Tuesday afternoon to plan lobbying strategy to push the state for more money for public aid burials.

This summer, Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly signed off on drastically reduced funding for indigent burials. The $10 million in funding was cut to $2 million.

Some funeral homes have absorbed the cost and Mark Rizzo of Leak & Sons on the South Side said many funeral homes are now tens of thousands of dollars in the red.

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“From the first of July to this very present time, we’re out about $90,000,” Rizzo said.

A West Side pastor, Johnny Dodd, said he’s uncomfortable with Cook County’s plans to turn over the bodies of many of the unclaimed to medical science if the bodies go unclaimed for two weeks.

“I’m just wondering this … Would it be for science, or would it be a way of just saving money to get our young people and our elderly people out of the way – the cheapest way?” Dodd said.

The ministers and funeral home directors say they will lobby the governor and the legislature to reinstate $10 million in funding for indigent burials.

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