City councillors in Windsor, Ont., voted in favour Monday night of increasing indigent funeral coverage.

Councillors approved a rate increase to $2,000 from $1,558.06 retroactively to June 1, 2009, for an adult and a further increase to $3,000 as of Jan. 1, 2010.

Windsor currently covers 85 per cent of the cost of an indigent funeral, while the County of Essex covers the balance, according to Kathy McCord, the city's manager of social support administration, in a report presented to council at Monday night's regular meeting. Together, the city and county expect to pay $29,900 for an estimated 163 funerals and burials, McCord said. In 2010, the number of funerals is expected to increase by 10 per cent to 180, resulting in costs of $110,100.

The province of Ontario covers 80 per cent of the municipality's cost.

In her report, McCord urged council to consider the funding increase "a high corporate priority," while acknowledging the "competition for scarce financial resources."

But the report also says that "for the past 10 years, the fees paid by the City of Windsor have been the second-lowest in the province."

Funeral directors underwriting costs

A typical funeral costs $4,646.79, according to Gregory Reaume, the president of the Windsor-Essex Funeral Directors Association, in a letter submitted to council on March 19.

That's $3,088.73 more than the city's contribution of $1,558.06, a cost that funeral directors across the city have had to pick up themselves and which Reaume said they could no longer afford.

"We respectfully request that City of Windsor Social Services Department begin paying full market value in fairness to our funeral homes, as you would pay full market value for any other business service," Reaume wrote.

The $3,000 will cover the bare basics of a funeral service: undertaking, simple casket, staffing services, a period of visitation, transportation, facilities and registration fees. For $2,000, a direct burial or cremation with no visitation or service rights is offered, according to McCord's report.

Indigent funeral coverage is available to residents who receive social assistance from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, as well as low-income seniors and people who die without assets.

Every municipality in Ontario is required to cover funeral and burial expenses for people who die in hospital and whose next of kin cannot be located or are unwilling to take responsibility for the deceased person.