For first time in years, state will help pay for burials for the poor

For the first time in years, Illinois is paying to bury indigent people - welcome news to suburban funeral directors who have been fronting the expense for years when no one else would.

Sax Tiedemann Funeral Home and Crematorium in Franklin Park receives numerous bodies of homeless and poor residents from Cook and DuPage County morgues each year, officials say. Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights takes in the remains of poor veterans.

While organizations like Catholic Charities donate graves for those who die without money to pay for a burial, someone still has to pay for a casket and outer burial container.

"We're trying our best to not turn people away because they and their families are part of our communities," Sax Tiedemann director Stephen Dawson says.

Stepping up

The $9.3 million line item in the recently passed state budget is the first time the Illinois Funeral and Burial Program has been funded since 2014. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner discontinued the program, which paid families $1,103 for burials or $554 for cremations, in 2015.

Dawson estimates Sax Tiedemann has absorbed about $50,000 in funeral and burial costs that previously would have been paid by the state.

Jackie Glueckert describes a recent instance when Glueckert paid for a casket and burial suit of a Marine veteran, with local volunteers serving as pallbearers.

The average cost of a funeral is about $7,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

The state funded funerals for 8,649 people in 2014.

Target list

The Koch brothers' conservative advocacy group, Americans For Prosperity, is targeting suburban representatives on both sides of the aisle who voted to override Rauner's veto of the state budget earlier this month.

They include Republicans Steve Andersson of Geneva, David Harris of Arlington Heights and Mike Fortner of West Chicago, and Democrats Deb Conroy of Villa Park, Anna Moeller of Elgin and Carol Sente of Vernon Hills. The group's campaign includes ads, mailers and grass-roots activities.

Open to suggestions

Sente is one Democrat who's open to changes on the education funding bill passed by the legislature that Rauner, calling it a bailout of Chicago Public Schools, says he'll veto.

Sente said she doesn't have as hard of a time with money going to Chicago as the governor does, saying the city is the "economic engine of the state. I don't have the same feeling that this current bill is a Chicago bailout," she said.

Rauner on Friday threatened another special session if lawmakers don't send the education bill to his desk by Monday.

Road closed, bar open

Got to love this photo showing Rawson Bridge Road in Port Barrington closed, yet the Broken Oar Bar - located on the Fox River - remains open. A cold beer, I have to admit, doesn't sound like a bad antidote for those grappling with all the suburban flooding.

Update on Emily

Emily Kmiecik of Arlington Heights says she'll be undergoing a bone-marrow transplant early in August.

Late last year, the 26-year-old nursing student at Harper College - and daughter of former Daily Herald human resources director Betsy Kmiecik - was finishing clinicals at Lurie's Children's Hospital in Chicago when she learned her leukemia had come back. Her fight against cancer - and efforts to freeze her eggs before undergoing treatment - have gotten the attention of Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo, himself a cancer survivor. We wish her all the best.

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  A visitor stops by Hillside Cemetery in Elgin. After a hiatus, Illinois will again fund a program that pays for indigent burials and cremations. Brian Hill/
Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills
Emily Kmiecik, left, and fiance Jason Orlando. Photo Courtesy Emily Kmiecik
Fox River flooding closed the road, but not the riverfront bar, according to signs in Port Barrington. Photo Courtesy Tim Sullivan
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