DPH: Funeral home licensing won’t be cut

The state Department of Public Health says it will not stop licensing funeral homes, funeral directors or embalmers, despite announcing plans earlier in the week to do so.

On Monday, the department released a statement detailing its plans for cutting $20.6 million over two years. It said that, “DPH will no longer license funeral homes, funeral directors and embalmers, college infirmaries, and certain types of clinics. Licensed employees who work at facilities no longer licensed still remain subject to DPH regulations and enforcement.”

But Friday afternoon, the department released a statement saying that the earlier statement was inaccurate. Spokesman William Gerrish said there was not a plan to stop licensing funeral homes, funeral directors or embalmers. “We will continue to regulate those entities,” he said.

The retraction did not apply to college infirmaries or clinics, Gerrish said. “We’re still working on implementing those aspects of it,” he said.

Gerrish said Monday’s announcement was related to the proposed elimination of a position that conducts funeral home inspections. He said the work will be reassigned to other staff.

The budget-cutting plan is part of an effort to cut $1.6 billion from the current two-year budget, the result of state employee unions rejecting a concession deal. The unions are in the process of voting on a revised version of the deal. If it is ratified, many of the cuts will be rolled back, Gerrish said Monday.

This is not the first announced budget cut to be put off or rescinded. Earlier this week, officials announced plans to fund fall sports at state vocational-technical schools, the same day education leaders said they would have to be canceled regardless of the union vote. The Department of Motor Vehicles also announced plans to postpone by a week the closure of facilities and worker layoffs because the union vote could make them unnecessary.