SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A backlog at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe is forcing some families to wait more than a month before they can bury their loved ones. The Santa Fe National Cemetery is the burial site of more than 70,000 veterans and their families. Now, it is facing a rather troubling scheduling problem.

“Currently we have a six-week delay. A majority of those are cremations. We are looking into why we have a six-week delay,” says Victor Vasquez, cemetery director.

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Vasquez says they have seen periods of delays pop up for families wishing to bury their loved ones during his time there—normally, of only two to four weeks—but the month and a half backlog has left them puzzled.

“We’re thinking it’s one of three reasons: one, we had a lot of COVID families that have had loved ones that have passed away and they’ve held them and are trying to get them buried now. The second could be that we’re coming out of winter; people [don’t] want to bury their loved ones in the wintertime. And then the third one which is probably more realistic, too, is that we only have one committal shelter at this national cemetery,” Vasquez says.

A committal shelter is an area where interment services are held. To chip away at the growing waitlist of families, Vasquez says they’ve come up with a plan.

“So to alleviate this problem, what we’re doing is we’re using the historical rostrum which is behind you and we have the shelter over here—we’ve set that up—and we’re also opening up a temporary shelter in the historical part of the cemetery with a tent and chairs so we’re able to do three services in an hour.”

Vasquez says with the additional committal shelters and timeslots for services, they would be able to inter more than 50 people in a day. “We’re already working that right now and we should have it down to four weeks within the next two weeks,” Vasquez says.

Vasquez says it will be hard to know for sure the reason they have an increase in demand for burials right now but are already scheduling services in those extra time slots. They also have an expansion in the works for more than 7,000 new burial sites, including 1,196 plots available for caskets, 1,808 sites for in-ground cremations, 5,080 niches/columbaria, and 480 sites for memorial markers. They hope to have these open by the end of May.