The State of New Jersey helps the needy pay for funerals through the Department of Human Services (DHS). Apply for "public assistance" funeral funds by calling the board of social/human services (or welfare agency) in the county in which the deceased resided at the time of their death. For a list of county boards of social/human services call the DHS at (609) 588-2000.
Individuals eligible for state public assistance funeral and burial funds include:
- Newly approved (within 15 days death), eligible applicants or active recipients of these programs: Work First NJ/ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (WFNJ/TANF), Work First New Jersey/General Assistance (WFNJ/GA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid Only; Stillborns/deceased newborns of WFNJ, SSI and WFNJ/GA recipients.
- WFNJ recipients in a NJ public institution (not a penal or correctional) where they died within the first six months.
- WFNJ/GA recipients who died while patients in hospitals.
- Medicaid Only recipients who lived in the community or in Medicaid approved facilities.
- Medically Needy recipients in nursing homes.
- SSI recipients in hospice care programs.
- Individuals in Adult Foster Care.
- Community Care Program for the Elderly and Disabled (CCPED) recipients.
- Individuals who died while satisfying WFNJ sanctions.
- Children of WFNJ recipients (eligibility is subject to the program's family cap).
- AIDS Community Care Alternative Program (AACAP) recipients.
- Recipients of WFNJ/GA benefits at least six months prior to death.
- Those found eligible for Assisted Living Services based on Medicaid Only eligibility.
- Medicaid-eligible individuals in long term care facilities who were not receiving Medicaid benefits at the time of death because they were under the care of a hospice agency. (does not apply to those who received hospice care at home).
- New Jersey Care-Special Medicaid Program for Aged, Blind and Disabled recipients.
- SSI or Medicaid Only recipients who died in a New Jersey institution (not penal or correctional).
- New Jersey Workability Program participants.
Funeral Payment Limits
The maximum amount the state will pay for the funeral home portion and the cemetery portion of a public assistance funeral appears below. The fourth column combines the two amounts and represents the maximum amount the state will pay for the complete funeral (funeral and cemetery portions). "Allowable Supplementation" is the amount family and friends can add to the combined maximum amount before the state will reduce its payment proportionately. The last column shows the maximum amount the state will pay for a public assistance funeral combined with the maximum amount the state will allow others to contribute.
Supplementation by Family and Friends
The state allows family and friends to contribute money toward a public assistance funeral. Families can apply supplementation to funeral home costs, cemetery costs or both. However, the state limits how much supplementation is allowed. The supplementation cap is $1,570 for individuals aged two and over. If the family contributes more than $1,570 the state will reduce payment dollar for dollar. For example, if the family contributes $1,670 ($100 more than the cap) the state reduces its maximum adult funeral reimbursement amount from $2,770 to $2,670. A deceased's assets cannot be used to supplement their funeral. These assets will be collected by the State of NJ. A decedent's assets will not affect the reimbursement received by Funeral Directors and Cemeteries.
- Cash on hand, in a bank account, or nursing home personal needs account (PNA);
- Securities, real estate, antique furniture and automobiles;
- Life insurance or death or funeral benefits regardless of the beneficiary (refunded premiums are exempt);
- Money paid and/or owed to the deceased before or after death.
How to Arrange a Public Assistance Funeral
To arrange a public assistance funeral, make an appointment with a funeral home. Tell the funeral director that you think the deceased is eligible for a public assistance funeral. The funeral director will contact the county board of social services to see if the deceased qualifies and seek “conditional” approval. The funeral director will make funeral arrangements using welfare funeral planning guidelines. If you want more than the guidelines provide, ask about supplementation. Please note that few cemeteries accept the state maximum $524 as payment in full and usually require supplementation.
The funeral home may ask you to sign a promise to pay in the event that the deceased doesn't qualify for a public assistance funeral. If the payment request is rejected, the funeral home will bill you for the balance in addition to any unpaid supplementation amount. Cemetery and funeral home charges are separate. After the services, the funeral home will submit a bill for up to $2,246 to the county board of social services. The cemetery will submit for a maximum payment of $524.
Some funeral homes do not handle welfare funerals, but we are here to help in any way needed.
Other Options For Financial Support
Places of Worship or Local Charities
Meet with the religious leader from the decedent’s place of worship or a local charity. Sometimes they can help facilitate a monetary collection to help with funeral and burial expenses.
If the decedent was a member of a benevolent society, trade union or other such organization there may be some type of death or burial benefit. The organization representative will be able discuss with you or your funeral director whether there is financial assistance available. Be sure to also ask about survivor benefits. Some organizations offer benefits to spouses and children. (Note, the NJSFDA is a non-profit trade association and does not offer death benefits to its members.)
For foreign-born decedents, the consulate of their home country may be able to assist in the arrangement for a local burial or with shipping remains back to the country of origin. Speak with your funeral director to assist in this process.
Crime Victims Compensation
New Jersey’s Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) is a state-run commission that acts as a support system for crime victims and their families. The VCCO provides financial compensation for some of the expenses victims and their families incur as a result of a violent crime. Compensation benefits may be awarded to qualifying individuals, such as surviving spouses, children or other dependent relatives, up to a maximum of $25,000. The VCCO will award compensation for the balance of crime-related expenses not reimbursed by other resources, such as medical insurance or disability benefits.
Compensation may include reimbursement for such items as:
- Funeral allowances up to $5,000.
- Crime scene cleanup up to $1,500.
- Emergency financial assistance up to $1,500.
- Medically related expenses.
- Loss of earnings or financial support.
- Mental health counseling.
To apply for benefits, individuals must have reported the crime to the police within six (6) months and submit a claim to the VCCO within three (3) years. To submit a claim, an individual must file a VCCO application, police report, copies of bills and receipts of all related financial losses as well as additional documentation as necessary.