EMERGENCY RULE: HRA Burial Claims Program

Adopted Rules: Closed to Comments

Effective Date: 
Monday, May 11, 2020
Download Copy of Adopted Rule (.pdf): 

Statement of Basis and Purpose of Emergency Rule

In order to address the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on New York City and the number of fatalities affecting the City’s most vulnerable and low-income populations in dire need of financial assistance to provide for respectful and solemn final disposition of their loved ones, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services / Human Resources Administration (DSS/HRA) issues this emergency rule concerning its Burial Claims program.

Under subdivisions 3(a) and 5 of Social Services Law Section 141, the State will provide reimbursement to local social services districts for payments of up to $900 that the district makes towards the burial of indigent individuals, but only where the expense of such burial does not exceed an amount fixed by the district.

DSS/HRA’s current rule concerning burial claims, set forth in Chapter 2 of Title 68 of the Rules of the City of New York, which was last amended in 2008, sets the maximum allowance for burial and funeral expenses payable by DSS/HRA at $900 and provides that an allowance from DSS/HRA shall not be available where the total burial and funeral expenses (exclusive of the cost of cremation or the burial plot and grave opening) exceed $1700.[1]  The $900 maximum burial allowance and the $1700 expense cap apply to both veteran and non-veteran burials, but the rule sets forth a special process for certain veteran burials.

This emergency rule will enable additional families to arrange for private burials or cremations for their loved ones who have passed away during this pandemic, at rates adjusted to better

[1] In 2008, DSS/HRA increased the burial allowance payable by DSS/HRA from $800 to $900, and the burial expense cap from $1,400 to $1,700. Portions of the rule were amended to reflect this, but some references to the older amounts were erroneously left in sections 2-01 and 2-04 of the rule. 2 reflect current costs. Specifically, this emergency rule does the following with respect to both veteran and non-veteran burials until such time as the final rule is in place:

(1) Increases the maximum allowance for burial and funeral expenses payable by DSS/HRA from $900 to $1,700, with the City responsible for costs that are not otherwise reimbursed by New York State, [2] and provides that such allowance may be used towards expenses that are excluded from the cap, including cremations.

(2) Increases the expense cap from $1,700 to $3,400 and adds the costs charged by a funeral director associated with the disinterment of decedent remains from Hart Island to the items that will not count towards the total expense cap.

(3) Makes clear that the requirement in the existing rule that applications must be made inperson is not being enforced at this time.

(4) Changes the time within which a friend, relative or organizational friend of the decedent can file an application for a burial allowance, from 60 days from the date of death to 120 days from the date of death.

(5) Allows anyone who may qualify for an allowance for burial expenses to apply for such an allowance either prior to or following burial or cremation and suspends the requirement that DSS/HRA must respond to pre-burial or pre-cremation applications within two business days.

(6) Provides that the value of any resources or income that are not liquid or available at the time of the decedent’s death and not available at the time of application will not be deducted from the burial allowance in determining the amount the applicant will receive. However, DSS/HRA will reserve the right recover against such resource consistent with State law.

With respect to veteran burials in particular, the rule removes the prohibition on providing burial expenses pursuant to Section 2-09 of Title 68 for the burial of veterans in private cemeteries other than Calverton Cemetery.

[2] Currently, State law only provides for partial reimbursement of burial allowances up to $900. In other words, burial allowances of $900 or less are partially reimbursable by the State, but any amounts paid by local social services districts above $900 come entirely out of local funds. The City will seek a legislative change that would provide for additional reimbursement from the State. Whether there is a legislative change may affect the final amounts that the City determines to be practicable in the CAPA rule-making to follow this emergency rule.