By State Rep. Jason Dawkins for PhillyVoice
Over a year ago, my grandfather, Billy Gambrel, passed away.
He was a larger-than-life figure in Frankford, a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, and the recreation center that bears his name is a testament to the decades he devoted to mentoring and supporting young people in our community. The loss was sudden and unexpected and seemed to hit the community just as hard as it hit our family.
We planned a funeral that filled every seat in the Second Baptist Church of Frankford, from the pews and balconies to the church basement. Outside of the church, a crowd gathered at the corner of Meadow and Mulberry streets to honor a man whose work with the Frankford Chargers youth football organization impacted generations of young men and women.
Planning a funeral is a difficult ordeal and comes at a time when families are already under a significant amount of stress. When we went to arrange payment for my grandfather’s funeral, we were shocked to discover the total cost of the various funeral services. It then occurred to me that if we had the opportunity to make informed decisions, the financial burden might not have been as great. We simply didn’t have the information necessary to judge the value of what we were buying.
My family’s experience is not unique and I could only imagine that those less fortunate have an even more difficult time in this process. Having attended my fair share of fundraisers to help someone bury a loved one, I wanted to do something to level the playing field for consumers.
That’s why state Rep. Morgan Cephas and I introduced House Bill 1078 (pdf) to implement much needed market-driven reforms. The bill would require funeral directors to provide consumers with a general price list of all services and costs when they begin shopping for services. This legislation also would bring a needed update to the 1984 rule by requiring that this list of prices be included on the business’ website if they have one.
In addition, the bill would provide additional state-level enforcement of already existing federal law.
Empowering consumers to make informed decisions will improve the experience for both consumers and funeral homes. This bill would ensure that grieving Pennsylvania families are guaranteed the protections provided to them by federal law so that they could spend their time honoring the memory of their loved ones instead of searching for a price tag.