Burial assistance legislation aiming to increase funding stalls
By Angel Ellis/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma– Muscogee (Creek) Nation Council Representative Mark Randolph’s Burial Assistance bill NCA 19-106 passed through full council on Oct. 26. The legislation has been a debated in committee and in follow up sessions, was postponed at one point but has finally been adopted into law. MCN Principal Chief James Floyd signed the legislation into law on Oct. 30.
The legislation was introduced by Randolph at a Heath, Education and Welfare (HEW) Committee held Aug. 12. On Aug. 12 the legislation was postponed in committee but reappeared on the next HEW meeting held Sept. 9, after a working session held by the MCN National Council.
Working sessions are meetings held by the council consisting of elected representatives and at times MCN department employees or non-tribal agents who are invited by council. The work sessions are not open to the public or media.
The legislation had some substitutions before reaching approval by full council.
NCA 19-106 will ‘Alleviate some of the funeral costs and or vaults or burial plots up to $4,500.’
It states that applicants that receive funding from the BIA Burial Assistance Program first will be eligible to receive funding from the Tribal Burial Program as long as the total from both programs does not exceed $4,500.
The food costs benefits were increased from $300 to $500 to use towards food for wake service and dinners associated with funeral.
The legislation was originally revisited at a Heath, Education and Welfare (HEW) Committee held Aug. 12. The bill was postponed, resurfacing on the Sept. 9 HEW committee where it was postponed for a second time.
On Aug. 12 the legislation was postponed in committee but reappeared on the next HEW meeting held Sept. 9, after a working session held by the MCN National Council.
On Sept. 5, a HEW agenda was published through the Office of Public of Relations. The HEW agenda showed NCA 19-106, Randolph’s burial assistance bill was up for consideration again.
The current legislation outlining rules and funding for Tribal Burial Assistance has been in effect since Oct. 1, 2018.
The 2018 changes impacted the total amount of assistance some applicants could receive. In the past, applicants could receive up to $5,500 in burial assistance depending on fund availability and individual eligibility.
Changes to the legislation meant that an applicant would be able to receive up to $3,000 in burial assistance depending on fund availability and individual eligibility.
According to the legislation one million dollars will be set aside from the Jewel settlement to be set up as a backup or secondary funding source in the event that primary BIA or Tribal funds are unavailable for Burial Assistance going forward.