The Distressed Cemetery Fund (Fund) is a state fund that was established in 2009 (29 Del. C. §7901A) under the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, to assist owners or volunteers of cemeteries who meet the definition of a distressed cemetery and who do not have the necessary funds to complete the proposed work. Per 29 Del. C. §7902A (6), "Distressed cemetery" means any land or structure used or intended to be used for the interment/entombment of human remains including facilities used for the final disposition of cremated remains whereby the owner lacks sufficient financial resources for the maintenance or preservation of said cemetery as determined by the Board. An abandoned cemetery may qualify as a distressed cemetery if registered with the State by a responsible party/volunteer.” Primary consideration is given to projects that address public safety and health concerns and that will assist in controlling future maintenance costs of the cemetery. The Fund is generally not used for annual lawn maintenance expenses. The other objective of creating 29 Del. C. c. 79A was to register Delaware cemeteries and to create a Board to which public complaints could be referred.
All requests must be matched by equal dollars and/or volunteer hours. The maximum amount available from the Fund to each cemetery is $10,000 but financial assistance will be equal to the amount of a cemetery’s funds available and volunteer hours committed to the project. All volunteer hours are recognized at $20.29 per hour.
Before making a request from this Fund, the cemetery must be registered with the Delaware Division of Public Health, Health Statistics Center. An owner or a volunteer of an abandoned cemetery may register a cemetery. The registration form on the Health Statistics Center’s website (http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/hp/DECB.html) must be completed along with a check payable to the State of Delaware in the amount of $10 and sent to the address below. Please note the registration fee is nonrefundable. A Certificate of Registration will be sent to the mailing address listed on the registration form. Registration is required every five years with a new form and payment of $10 or upon change in ownership of the cemetery.
Division of Public Health
Health Statistics Center
Jesse Cooper Building
Attn: Candace Casto
417 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901
After a Certificate of Registration is received from the Health Statistics Center, the application for financial assistance found on the website may be completed if there is a financial need and sent to the address above. The owner’s signature must be on the application. If the applicant is not the owner, the owner must send a separate letter with their approval directly to the Health Statistics Center and the signature must be notarized . A financial assistance application may be submitted every two years from the date of receipt of funds unless there is a substantial occurrence. The scope of the work needed must be specific (e.g., number of tombstones that need repair, number of trees removed, type of equipment needed, type and size of fence, etc.). Funds are only for proposed projects, not for past expenditures. Applications will expire after 90 days upon receipt by the Health Statistics Center. If requested information is not submitted by 90 days, the applicant must send in a completed application package again. The following are required to be sent along with the completed application.
The Distressed Cemetery Board has scheduled bimonthly meetings. The application will be presented at the board meeting that’s scheduled after the receipt of the application. The applicant will be notified of the date/time of the board meeting via e-mail or mail and must be available to answer questions in person or by telephone during the Board meeting.
A notification from the Health Statistics Center on the approval or disapproval will be sent to the e-mail address on file or to the mailing address if no e-mail address is listed. If approved, an IRS W-9 form must be completed online at https://w9.accounting.delaware.gov/W9form.aspx. If disapproved, the notification will include the reason. Applicants must allow 4-8 weeks for receipt of payment after notification of the approval.
Upon receipt of the funds, the applicant agrees to erect a sign at the cemetery if none exists, which includes at a minimum, the name of the cemetery and a contact for the cemetery. After the project is completed, the applicant must submit a written report to the Board within six months of receipt of funds detailing how the funds were spent, copies of paid invoices and canceled checks, the number of memorials straightened and repaired, etc. along with photographs of the sign and photos of the work completed.
The Cemetery Board shall have the right to request updates on the expenditures of the funds and to inspect the work in progress. In the event of an intentional misuse of funds, the applicant and/or the organization may face civil and criminal prosecution.
The Board reserves the right to grant waivers for unusual circumstances. It is their goal to help as many cemeteries as possible.
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