COVID deaths + funeral costs = more burial assistance needs

July 29, 2020

Early in the pandemic, requests to 2-1-1 for help paying for burial and funeral costs rose in states with high COVID-19 death rates. However, the same was not true in states that had higher death rates later in the pandemic. Why the difference? With the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. topping 150,000 today, we examined requests to 2-1-1 for assistance with death-related expenses in states with high COVID-19 death rates. Using data on weekly deaths per capita, we identified states participating in a daily 2-1-1 tracking system that had the highest death rates early in the pandemic (CT, DE, MA, NJ, NY) and later in the pandemic (AL, AR, FL, NV, SC, TN). The charts below plot monthly requests for death-related expenses from January 1 to July 28, 2020 (orange line) and for the same dates in 2019 (blue line). The top chart displays data from states with early peaking death rates and the bottom chart shows data from states with later peaking death rates. One factor that could explain the clear differences: burial and funeral costs. In a 2020 state-by-state ranking of funeral costs, funerals were much more expensive in states with early vs. late peaking death rates (average costs, $9,807 vs. $7,339). The combination of high COVID-deaths and high funeral costs in a state appear linked to requests to 2-1-1 for help with death-related expenses.
Note: The months of July in the charts below only include requests from July 1 – July 28.

Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Matthew Kreuter