The Florida House unanimously approved a measure requiring the Department of Juvenile Justice to pay $5,000 to the families to help cover the funeral costs for children who die in the state’s care.
The bill (HB 173) was prompted by a dispute last year over funeral costs for Eric Perez, who died on July 10. Guards at a West Palm Beach DJJ facility waited more than six hours before calling 911 after Perez began vomiting, hallucinating and complaining of severe headaches, according to official reports of the incident.
In August, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s office denied a payment to a funeral home to cover the costs of Perez’s funeral after initially approving the request from DJJ. Atwater’s staff told DJJ to cancel it because the agency lacked the authority for the payment, although DJJ has had a policy for at least two years to provide up to $5,000 for funeral costs of children who die while in their custody whose families are indigent.
The House unanimously approved the measure, which would put the agency’s policy into law and avoid disputes that arose over Perez’s funeral payment.
The Senate has yet to send an identical measure (SB 504) to the floor for a vote.