How government funeral assistance can help if you can't afford final expenses in Canada
We don’t often consider the cost of funeral arrangements until we experience the loss of a loved one and are tasked with managing their funeral arrangements. The price can surprise families and may add stress during an already difficult time.
From 2004-2019, funeral expenses increased 35 percent. During that time, 13 percent of campaigns created on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe were categorized as funerals, which remains one of their fastest-growing categories. In Canada, the average funeral cost is between $10,000 and $20,000, and with direct cremation, the most popular method of disposition, the price averages $5000.
At Eirene, we believe everyone deserves access to dignified end-of-life care, no matter their circumstance. Families should never be in a situation where they have to crowdfund for a loved one’s funeral. That’s why we wanted to share some financial resources you may not have considered to help cover the costs of a funeral, cremation or aquamation. Most are available as government funeral assistance from public funding or via agencies that provide insurance services to workers.
Government funeral assistance in Ontario
Ontario Works makes available government funeral assistance in ontario. The service is available to all Ontario residents to help offset the basic expenses of an arrangement for those who cannot afford it. Ontario Works may help to cover the cost of any funeral services including, but not limited to:
- The transfer of the deceased
- Cremation, including scattering or burial of the remains.
- Burial plot, including plot purchase or opening/closing costs for pre-purchased plots.
- Urn or casket
Approval for Ontario Works depends on the deceased's financial standing and considers insurance policies and assets. Once you receive approval from Ontario Works, you can begin making your arrangements with Eirene or your preferred funeral service provider. If approved, the average payout from Ontario Works is approximately $2250 but can vary depending on location and individual circumstances.
Note: You must be approved for this benefit prior to signing any contracts for funeral services.
The deceased does not have to be a recipient of Ontario Works during their lifetime to benefit from Ontario Works following their passing. However, it is important to remember that Ontario Works will be entitled to any funeral funds available in the deceased estate.
To apply for the Ontario Works benefit, those who are existing recipients can apply here. For individuals who were not recipients of Ontario Works or ODSP, the Eirene care team can support you throughout the application process. To find an Ontario Works office that serves your location, click here.
Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Death Benefit is a federally mandated service that provides survivors with two kinds of assistance:
- A one-time payment to the estate on behalf of the deceased
- A monthly pension
If approved, the deceased could receive a one-time payment of $2500, known as the death benefit to their estate. This government funeral assistance can be used to offset the cost of a funeral.
CPP reimburses the funds after you have paid for funeral arrangements. You must apply within a year of the deceased's date of passing; otherwise, you forfeit the benefits.
Survivors of the deceased could also receive a monthly pension known as the Survivors Pension or Child(ren)’s benefit. In certain circumstances, additional funding may be provided to dependents who have children (18 years or younger) enrolled in a full-time academic program.
To apply for the CPP benefit, complete the CPP Death Benefit application and the Survivor's Pension and Children’s Benefit if applicable. Be sure to include original copies of all required documentation, and then mail the application to the address indicated on the form. Payment from Service Canada takes approximately 6 to 12 weeks from the date they have received your completed application.
WSIB Survivors’ Benefits in Ontario
If you are a spouse or dependent of someone who has died due to a work-related illness or injury in Ontario, you may be eligible for WSIB Survivors Benefits.
(If the deceased person worked in another province when they died, see below for links to each provincial agency that administers worker benefits.)
The Ontario government agency provides four types of survivors benefits:
Survivor payments: WSIB pays spouses and/or dependent children a lump sum payment and a continuing monthly payment. The amount of these payments will be different for every claim.
Funeral and transportation costs: WSIB pays all expenses reasonably connected to burial or cremation directly. They may also pay for expenses to bring your family member home for burial.
Bereavement counselling: WSIB offers grief counselling for spouses and children. Families can request grief counselling at any time during the first year after their family member's death.
Support for spouses wanting to rejoin the workforce: WSIB provides help for spouses entering or returning to the workforce. If you think you may need this help, you must request it during the first year after your spouse's death, but their services can be delayed until it is appropriate.
If approved for the WSIB Survivors Benefit, there are three compensation structures depending on your circumstances.
Lump-sum awards: Surviving spouses are entitled to a one-time lump sum payment. For 2021, this payment is $86,211.87 plus or minus $2,155.29 depending on the age of the surviving spouse at the time of death.
The amount decreases by $2,155.29 for every year older than 40 that the spouse was at the time of the deceased’s death to a minimum of $43,105.88. The amount increases by $2,155.29 every year younger than 40 the spouse was at the time of the deceased’s passing to a maximum of $129,317.72.
Monthly awards: The minimum compensation amount payable for spouse and child is $2,039.74.The maximum earnings ceiling is $102,800.00 per year (175% of average industrial wage for Ontario).
Burial awards: WSIB pays all expenses reasonably connected to the burial. There is no maximum amount. The minimum amount payable is $3,232.94.
To obtain detailed information about compensation structures, visit the WSIB website.
Worker Funeral Benefits by Province
Ontario isn’t the only province that offers funding for funerals for workers who died on the job.
Here is a list of all the worker insurance plan agencies for each Canadian province. Check with each applicable government agency to see what funeral benefits they offer:
British Columbia: https://www.worksafebc.com/
New Brunswick: https://www.worksafenb.ca/
Nova Scotia: https://www.wcb.ns.ca/
Newfoundland and Labrador: https://workplacenl.ca/
Northwest Territories: https://www.wscc.nt.ca/
Last Post Fund for Veterans
The Last Post Fund is a benefit that seeks to provide Veterans with dignified funeral and/or burial arrangements, as well as a military gravestone if the deceased has insufficient funds at the time of death.
Service eligibility for the Funeral and Burial Program extends to:
- Canadian Armed Forces Veterans or any predecessor Naval, Army or Air Forces of Canada or Newfoundland
- Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans of the Second World War or the Korean War
- Allied Veterans who served with the Allied Forces during the Second World War or the Korean War
Depending on circumstances, assistance may be provided in one of two ways:
LPF makes the arrangements: Standard funeral services may be provided when the Last Post Fund is contacted, and eligibility determined before firm arrangements are made with a funeral home. In this case, the Last Post Fund will contract directly with the funeral home within the maximum amounts set out in the Veterans Burial Regulations.
Family / Estate makes the arrangements: When arrangements for funeral and burial are made by a Veteran’s estate, family or another person/organization, an application for reimbursement (partial or full) may be made within one year. This reimbursement is subject to the amounts set out in the Veterans Burial Regulations.
You can apply for the Last Post Fund benefit online or by phone, and once your application has been submitted, an LPF counsellor will contact you.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
INAC provides a benefit to Indigenous peoples to help cover funeral and transportation expenses for the deceased. If the deceased meets the requirements, you could receive up to $3500 for funeral and burial expenses and up to $6000 to transport the body by air, rail or vehicle.
To be considered for this government funeral assistance, you must demonstrate that the deceased is:
- Ordinarily resident on-reserve;
- Eligible for basic or special financial assistance (as defined by the province or territory of residence, and confirmed by an assessment covering employability, family composition and age, and financial resources available to the household
- Able to demonstrate a requirement for IA programs and services support and demonstrate they have no other source of funding to meet basic needs.
More information about this benefit can be found here.
Memorial Grant Program for First Responders
A Memorial Grant Program for First Responders is offered to the families of first responders who have died as a result of their duties. The Memorial Grant Program for First Responders will provide a one-time tax-free lump sum direct maximum payment of $300,000 to the beneficiaries of first responders.
The Memorial Grant does not compensate beneficiaries of first responders for monetary loss (income replacement) or serve as life insurance but is in recognition of their service and sacrifice.
More information about this benefit can be found here.
Lived or Living Outside Canada
As a surviving spouse of a person who lived or worked abroad, you may be eligible for benefits from Canada or a foreign government due to a social security agreement.
A social security agreement is an international agreement between Canada and another country that is designed to coordinate the pension programs of the two countries for people who have lived or worked in both countries. Canada has signed social security agreements with several other countries that offer comparable pension programs.
More information on countries, eligibility, and compensation structure can be found here.
Every Canadian deserves access to dignified end-of-life care
When you choose Eirene for your cremation arrangements, our team of licensed funeral directors will help guide you through any application process and assist with selecting a payment option that suits your needs. We accept all major credit cards and Visa debit, and if you’d prefer to pay in instalments, we offer monthly financing through our partner Flexiti.
We’re proud to offer high-quality, compassionate services that allow families to mourn their loss without worrying about finances.