The Coachella Valley Public Cemetery District board reached an agreement Tuesday to help ease the financial burden on families trying to bury a loved one in these challenging times.
The board members held their meeting online via zoom Tuesday morning, allowing the public and members of the media to listen in.
Several community members voiced their support for the initial proposal brought forward by two board members, Marcos Coronel Jr. and Bruce Underwood. The initial proposal included the establishment of a $300,000 COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to provide financial relief to families struggling to cover burial costs.
“It’s up to us as the leaders of this institution here to make the decision to be able to do something,” said Marcos Colonel, a board trustee. Colonel pointed out, as a public cemetery, the entity is already partially funded by taxpayer dollars. “The money is being directly given back to the community from which we took it from. The public is hurting. The public doesn’t have money. Your neighbors...your friends...even your families. I know my family is hurting,” said Colonel.
Some other members of the board were initially not in support of the proposal as it was written -- also shutting down the idea of offering payment plans. “About 85% of all accounts that go on installment accounts for people to be buried now and ‘we’ll kind of pay you in a year or two’ they don’t get fulfilled,” said Ernesto Rosales, Chairman of the Board.
The board ultimately came to a compromise, setting aside $100,000 to help cover burial costs for families financially impacted by COVID-19.
According to the chairman, families will still have to pay the initial $1150 to cover the property and endowment, but then the cemetery will cover the remaining $1550 required for a traditional burial. This will apply to applicants who can prove a coronavirus related hardship through August 31st.
“Although this is the most reasonable cost for a traditional burial, there are other very giving organizations as you know,” said Rosales.
Rosales added if families still can’t cover that cost, there are other organizations that can step in.
The board also agreed to make those documents publicly available in the future -- showing where the money is going and which applications are approved or denied and why.