ROCHESTER — A family that lost two of its members in one month is calling on Monroe County officials to increase funding for indigent burials.
The Peterkin family held a Nov. 5 press conference outside the county office building on East Main Street along with other activists who want officials to restore funding for dignified burials.
"We are out here trying to get community to support people so families don’t have to struggle to bury their loves or have them be cremated," said Gregory Peterkin, who lost his sister, Wanda Peterkin, in a house fire on Oct. 4. Their mother, Vera Hooks, died just weeks later.
On the same day as the press conference, the family buried his sister because they did not feel cremation was even a choice given how she died, Greg Peterkin said.
In 2006, county payments to cover the funeral and burial expenses of the indigent were reduced from $1,850 to $1,250 and many families were forced to choose cremation since they could not afford burial, local activists said. For some ethnic communities — including Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americas — cremation goes against their faith traditions.
The $1,250 that low-income families receive is not even 10 percent of the $5,000 to $6,000 needed for most funerals and burials, said Natasha Chatmon, the niece of Wanda Peterkin and granddaughter of Vera Hooks.
The family put together the money to cover both of the funerals and burial costs with donations from relatives and the House of Mercy, she said. But they were still short an additional $300 to have the mother and daughter buried side by side, she said.
No family should have to go through such a struggle to cover the costs of burying a loved one, Chatmon added.
"It just adds more stress to a family already grieving," she said.