Some funeral homes in Chicago have been accused of taking advantage of taxpayer funds that pay several thousand dollars in funeral expenses for the grieving families of murder victims in the crime-ridden city.
Victim advocates are accusing some funeral directors of of both “inflating prices or charging families for services they never received,” Fox News reports.
“Every funeral home in the state knows that victims get $7,500 for a funeral and it’s their goal to charge the entire amount because it’s easy money,” Susan Johnson, executive director of Chicago Survivors, told Fox News.
Chicago Survivors provides free services and is open to all who have lost loved ones to violence.
Johnson is claiming that some funeral home operators are targeting grieving relatives of homicide victims who are receiving money from the Illinois Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.
Families of murder victims receive the $7,500 through the state and federal government in order to help pay for funeral costs—which, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, typically costs an average of $7,000 to $8,300.
The money is intended to help with several different costs that involve a funeral, including a casket, staff salary, the use of facilities, and transportation. Extra services such as flowers and obituaries raise the cost.
In one example that Johnson provided, she spoke of a funeral home that she claimed actually “held a body hostage,” as the family was charged a higher rate than initially quoted. Because of the higher price, they weren’t able to come up with the necessary funds.
“It happens all the time,” she said.
While there are laws in place protecting consumers and with intentions to prevent funeral home fraud, the Fox News report notes that those who are taking advantage of the system rarely face consequences, because the city is lacking the resources to address the alleged fraud.
The funeral home fleecing of grieving families is simply “not a high priority,” according to Johnson.
Joshua Solcum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Fox News, “That’s the excuse of every government agency, isn’t it?”
““(The victims’ families) have an ethical right to be angry,” he said. “It’s one of the worst ways to victimize people.”
Johnson believes another reason funeral homes aren’t being held accountable is because the grieving families don’t want to fight funeral homes as they’re already facing a tragedy.
“They’ve had it,” Johnson said. “They have just gotten through the worst thing in their lives and they don’t want to get into a protracted fight with a funeral home.”
Further, Johnson said funeral homes are asking relatives to sign additional documentation at inopportune times, such as straight before a funeral is set to begin or at the viewing—times when they’re facing one of the most trying times of their lives and likely aren’t thinking clearly. At this time different unnecessary services are being tacked on, she said, adding that even services that are never rendered are being added to the bill.
“It’s disgusting,” she said.
[Feature photo: Pexels]