Louisiana’s New Stillbirth Tax Credit Helps Families After Tragic Loss
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s newest tax credit is designed to help families who have lost a child late in pregnancy.
This year, grieving parents can claim a credit on their taxes that may alleviate some of the financial and emotional burdens associated with the tragic event. Advocates believe the credit acknowledges a stillborn baby as a human being and an enduring part of the family.
In effect since Jan. 1, the new $2,000 tax credit allows parents to claim their baby as a dependent for the year the loss occurred. This makes Louisiana the sixth state to provide such a benefit. To file the paperwork, families should request a copy of the “Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth,” which can be obtained from the hospital or free of charge from the office of vital records.
The experience of stillbirth, or death of an unborn baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy (five months), is typically unexpected. Advocates say parents are devastated and left scrambling to pick up the fallen pieces. Having to make choices on how they will bury their child, for example, can feel especially cruel. Furthermore, life insurance policies aren’t an option to cover the cost as most only cover children from 14 days old to their 18th birthday. In order to bury their baby in a way that is comfortable for them, families have to pay out of pocket. This new credit can reimburse some of those expenses.
The funds can also aid in the planning process for future pregnancies. Health insurance plans, including Medicaid, fail to fully cover the costs for postpartum testing, which could provide answers for parents who struggle to understand what went wrong. Intensive monitoring is common in subsequent pregnancies for mothers who are now considered “high risk” after having a stillborn child. This requires multiple appointments, transportation and copays that add up quickly. The same situation exists for parents who choose to seek counseling to address mental health concerns.
“It’s important that families experiencing stillbirth know that their mental and emotional health matters and that processing a loss like this is largely based on the ability to access important resources such as counseling,” said Kimberly Novod, founder of local nonprofit Saul’s Light, which provides support and community for bereaved parents and those with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. “This tax credit will ensure that all Louisiana families experiencing stillbirth have that privilege.”
After rallying the support of Louisiana Rep. Stefanie Hilferty, Novod organized a small group of parent advocates who made their way to Baton Rouge to testify in front of legislators and share their painful experiences of love and loss. The nonpartisan bill was signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards last summer.