Cherokee Nation Burial Assistance Program Restructures
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — A longtime Cherokee Nation program is updating its services. The Cherokee Nation Burial Assistance Program, established in 1988 as part of the Family Assistance department, is announcing new guidelines and options for assistance.
The Cherokee Nation administers the Burial Assistance Program in conjunction with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is designed to relieve or in some cases eliminate the financial hardship associated with traditional funeral costs for impoverished or low-income families with little or no resources. Two burial assistance options are now available to eligible families and funeral services must be planned through a funeral home on active contract with the Cherokee Nation.
“People need to understand that Burial Assistance is not an entitlement program,” said Jerry Snell, Cherokee Nation Family Assistance director. Snell noted that income guidelines for the program were based on the past twelve months’ income and could not exceed 150 percent of the national poverty level income standards. For example, a household of two people must verify income of no more than $1,750 per month for the past twelve months. The program’s goal is to help Cherokee Nation’s most impoverished families as a last resort option, said Snell.
The deceased family member must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, as verified by a tribal membership card, rather than a C.D.I.B. card. Cherokee Nation citizenship must be verified by a blue Cherokee Nation citizenship card. Additionally, the deceased and his or her immediate family’s resources, such as cash, savings, veterans’ benefits, life insurance or other funds, must total $2,500 or less, and the deceased must have resided inside the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction for at least six months immediately preceding his or her death.
Two options for assistance are available. The first option is only available to qualified Cherokee Nation citizens and provides a limited funeral service at a contracted funeral home that is paid in full. The service is limited and cannot be altered in any way.
The second option is open to all eligible families where the deceased is a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe and is also available to eligible families of a deceased Cherokee Nation citizen who do not wish to choose the first option. In this option, the eligible family can select any service that a Cherokee Nation contracted funeral home agrees to sell them and the Cherokee Nation will pay a one-time payment of up to $2,400 based on the family’s available resources. The family will be responsible for the balance of all costs beyond the one-time payment by the Nation.
Depending on the particular contracted funeral home, the family may also select cremation if such services are available within the contract.
For more information about the Cherokee Nation Burial Assistance program, call (918) 453-5327 or (918) 453-5266.