The Saskatchewan government has relented on a plan that would have seen people on social assistance lose nearly half of the benefits provided to cover funeral costs at a savings to the province of about $1 million per year.

Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party government said in its March budget that it would cut funeral benefits for the poor from up to $3,850 to $2,100. The province would continue to cover basic preparation of the body, transfers, a standard casket or urn and regulatory fees, but would no longer cover the cost of things like viewings and funeral services, as of July 1.

On Friday, Minister of Social Services Tina Beaudry-Mellor said the province has decided that, on top of the $2,100 previously announced, it will also provide up to $700 for funeral services, up to $700 for embalming and up to $925 for cremation fees. She still expects to save about $400,000, in part from reduced funeral related mileage allowances.

Phil Fredette, from the Saskatchewan Board of Funeral Homes, says industry members were already subsidizing funerals for those on social assistance before the cuts, and he believes they will continue to do so after the newly announced changes.

Saskatchewan announced in March that it was projecting a $1.3-billion deficit, as a result of a $1 billion decline in revenue from natural resources like oil, gas and potash. The budget also included shutting down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) and raising the Provincial Sales Tax from five to six per cent.

With a report from CTV Regina