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Day 36 — Deep-Six Benefits

If you’re unemployed, dying solves everything, except what to do with your remains.

I wanted to call the Burial Assistance Program run by D.C. Department of Human Services and tell them I was thinking about dying to find out if I was entitled to burial benefits in case I got slammed by a Metro bus while crossing the street (this is more common than you might think), but I didn’t know how the person on the other end of the phone would react.

Good thing for the D.C. government’s website, because I was able to find the answers online. If you want to get buried in a box, and I imagine that’s all you’d get, the program will fund your funeral services for up to $800. But you might want to consider saving the government some money—after all, city services are hurting, too—and go for cremation for $450.

The government’s website urges families in need of assistance to “apply right away.” Am I missing something? Time of death isn’t something I knew I could plan for. Unless you’re in a hospice, which I’m not, I’m not sure I’d wake up one morning and take the X2 bus from the Gallery Place Metro stop to apply.

I imagine the conversation would go like this:

Me: “I’m here to apply for burial benefits.”

Burial rep: “Who died?”

Me: “Well, I’m thinking about it.”

Burial rep: “Are you worth less than $800?”

Me: “That depends on what day of the month it is. After I pay my mortgage, property taxes, insurance, utilities and feed and clothed my kids I think I’ll meet that eligibility requirement.”

Burial rep: “Do you live in the District of Columbia? I’ll need proof of residency. If you’re homeless, I can make an exception.”

Me: “For now I do, in a house I’m struggling to hang on to. Are you going to bury me in a cemetary, or throw me in a landfill?”

Burial rep: “That’s up to your family.”

The rules get more complicated, and the D.C. government has prepared a policy manual that covers the fine print. Once you apply, the government promises that it “will make an eligibility determination as quickly as possible.”

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