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Parents push for stillbirth tax credit

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MENOMONIE (WQOW) - For some there is a heartbreaking side to pregnancy. Delivering the life that was growing inside you, only to know that they will never take a breath. That you will never meet them or see them grow. This is the reality for many parents in Wisconsin.

The pain and grief always stinging and a reminder of that painful loss each time a bill comes.

That is why parents in Wisconsin are proposing new legislation to help the financial hurdle that comes with a stillbirth.

"Your baby doesn't come home with you - but you still have expenses," said Amanda McKown of Menomonie.

McKown was 38 weeks when she went into labor with her third child Braxton. Before he was delivered, they couldn't find his heartbeat. When just days before their ultrasound showed everything was normal.

Parents of stillborn babies have many financial costs that include many, if not the same costs that parents who leave with a healthy child such as medical bills preparing for the arrival and delivery. Stillborn children are also not covered under life insurance plans, so funeral costs are left up to the family.

"You still have the medical bills, the funeral costs, and then for us since it was so unexpected, I took an extended leave from work so we lost that income. There's counseling expenses on top of that, all the things that happen after the fact that you don't think of when your baby doesn't come home with you," McKown said.

Parents receive a $1,000 tax credit per child but if a child is stillborn, parents are not eligible for this tax credit. If a child dies after taking one breath outside of the mother, parents are eligible for this credit as well.

A group of parents along with bipartisan support from state lawmakers are introducing a bill to create a $2,000 refundable tax credit for the parents of a stillborn child.

"These babies were here. And they did live," McKown explained.

Five states have similar laws in place for parents of stillborn children including Minnesota and Michigan.

A tax credit that McKown said would have helped her during that painful year.

"When we filed our taxes that year, not being able to claim him. Basically it was like he wasn't here. But he was here," she said.

The goal is to also change the stigma surrounding stillbirth and changing the narrative that there is a so-called "timeline" for grief.

"I think being able to speak about your children and especially claiming them on your taxes, is just one step to validate your grief and these feelings that you're going through. And having other people validate that grief, and say ok you can talk about it, ok your child lived, that just makes it that much easier for us parents who have to live with this and carry this grief with us for the rest of our life," McKown said.

Wisconsin Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), one of the supporters of the bill said, “A breath determines so much for these parents. It determines the difference between a birth certificate and a stillborn certificate. It determines the ability to claim your child’s life during tax season. I believe we can step up as a state and help these bereaved parents by addressing the tax inequalities that arise for parents who had a child take one breath and for the parents whose child passed away shortly before this could occur.”

They are looking for cosponsors of this bill by Friday, Feb.19.

Katie Phernetton

Katie Phernetton is one of the Daybreak morning anchors.

She joined News 18 in August of 2018 after working as a reporter for five years in the Green Bay market. Born and raised in Green Bay, she prides herself in being a cheesehead through and through.

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