Tribe’s burial aid for needy families

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
02/13/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Human Services Burial Assistance Program continues to help families with funeral expenses. For nearly 20 years, the program has helped provide tribal citizens financial aid to bury family members who have passed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs paying a portion of those expenses.

“It’s for people that have little or no resources to bury a loved one,” CN Family Assistance Manager Angela King said.

In fiscal year 2017, BAP provided aid for 395 burials, and so far in FY 2018 (Oct. 1 to Jan. 31) the CN has aided with 80 burials. The tribe’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The program is designed to alleviate financial stress that comes with funeral costs for low-income families. The deceased’s immediate family’s income must not exceed greater than 150 percent of the National Poverty Level income standards.

To be eligible, the deceased must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe: have resided in the CN jurisdiction six months prior to date of death: must not, or family must not, have resources that exceed $2,900, which include life insurance, veteran’s benefits, savings, checking or prepaid burial; and must select a funeral home that has an active burial contract with the tribe.

The CN is contracted with 76 funeral homes in Oklahoma. The CN and BIA pay depending on two options offered through the BAP.

Option 1 is restricted to CN citizens, if eligible, and services will be paid in full to eliminate financial burdens. This service provides at minimum a 20-gage steel casket, concrete outer container/grave liner, tent and cemetery set up, memorial package, death certificate, burial notice in a local newspaper and traditional professional services provided by a contracted funeral home to conduct the service.

The CN and BIA payout for the Option 1 contracted service must not exceed $3,600 for the service to be paid in full.

Option 2 is available to any citizen of a federally recognized tribe, who must meet all income and eligibility standards. The selected funeral home will provide services for any eligible non-CN citizen, as negotiated by the funeral home and the family. The CN will make a single payment up to $2,800 toward the service’s total cost. The family is responsible for the remaining balance due toward the funeral home costs.

An eligible Cherokee family that wishes to switch from Option 1 to Option 2 may do so under the negotiation between funeral home and family. The CN will make a single payment of $2,800 toward funeral costs with the family responsible for the remaining balance.

King said the reason some families switch is because a family member wanting a different service not provided in Option 1. She said the family is allowed to switch but is responsible for any extra expenses.

“Since this is an income-based program it has to be someone outside of the household that is responsible for the remaining amount. Because we don’t want that family owing a funeral home because if they really can’t afford a funeral they’re going to pick the option 1 where they don’t owe anything,” King said.

For more information, call 918-453-5000 or email human_services@cherokee.org.

Burial Assistance Eligibility Guidelines

1. The deceased must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, verified by a tribal citizenship card (blue card for Cherokee Nation citizens). A Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card is not proof of citizenship and will not be accepted.

2. The deceased must have been a resident of the CN jurisdiction for six months prior to date of death.

3. The deceased and his/her immediate family many not have resources (life insurance, veteran’s benefits, cash, savings accounts, etc.) exceeding $2,500.

4. The deceased and his/her immediate family may not have income for the previous month greater than 150 percent of the National Poverty Level income standards. For example, for a household of two, income cannot exceed $2,003 for the previous month or $24,030 for the past 12 months.

5. The family must select a funeral home that has an active burial contract with the CN.

Needed Documents

1. Residential verification that the deceased has lived within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction for the past six months. The document must verify the physical location of the residence (utility bill or a rent receipt with the physical location listed), Department of Humans Service statement, statement from a nursing home, 911 statements or any other document including a physical address.

2. Tribal citizenship card.

3. Proof of income for the previous 12 months for the deceased and his/her immediate family. Verification documents include, but are not limited to pay stubs, copies of benefit checks if they cover the previous 12 months, benefit award letters, etc.

4. Proof of all available financial resources including but not limited to bank statements, savings account statements, life insurance police and veterans benefits statements, etc.

5. Social Security Card

Option 1

This option is restricted to eligible Cherokee Nation citizens, and if selected, the service will be paid in full (less any available family resources) by the CN, totally eliminating the eligible family of any financial burden normally associated with funeral expense.

This service is limited and cannot be altered. The service shall provide at minimum a 20-gage steel casket, concrete outer container/grave liner (non-biodegradable), tent and cemetery set up, memorial package, one death certificate, burial notice in local paper and the traditional professional service provide by the contracted funeral home conducting the service.

If an eligible family selects any type of cremation, the funeral home will explain the contracted options available to the family and if services are within the contract, this service will also be paid in full.

Option 2

This option is for any eligible family where the deceased is not a Cherokee Nation citizen but is a citizen of another federally recognized tribe. The eligible family can select any funeral service the funeral home will sell them and the CN will pay a one-time maximum payment of $2,800 (minus available resources). The family will be totally responsible for all costs above this amount. The family must meet income, resource and residential requirements for this service.

This option will also be made available to eligible CN citizens who may have family members (not living in the deceased immediate household) that wish to upgrade the contracted service identified in Option 1. The eligible Cherokee family can select any service the funeral home will sell them and the CN will make the one-time payment in the amount of $2,800 (less available resources) and the family will be totally responsible for paying the balance.

Many funeral homes have active contracts with the CN to provide all services outlined in options 1 and 2 identified above. If the family selects a funeral home that is not listed, contact a local Tribal Services office. This list is updated periodically.
About the Author
lindsey-bark@cherokee.org • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to ...

Services

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/13/2018 05:20 PM
Eligible applicants must be a citizen of a ...

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/11/2018 04:08 PM
The United Keetoowah Band is offe...

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/30/2018 04:03 PM
Cherokee Nation EMS staff will be on hand from 11:3...

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/29/2018 08:00 AM
The Housing Authority of the...

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2018 12:25 PM
Tribal citizens living in Miami were previously exclu...

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
11/09/2018 04:02 PM
The Cherokee Nation servi...