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Success of “Black Out Tags”...

Success of “Black Out Tags” contributes to increased benefit for families of fallen first responders

By: Sarah Ulmer - May 3, 2024

  • Lawmakers pass increase to the death benefit for the families of fallen first responders from $100,000 to $250,000, with considerations for immediate funeral expenses.

Over the last two years more and more “black out” license plate tags have been popping up across roadways throughout the state of Mississippi.

The trend ramped up after the passage of Senate Bill 2841 in 2023, which allowed for the generic use of the tag without any additional custom letters or words. Prior to that, the blackout option was only accessible to “vanity” tags, those with customized slogans.

Since July of 2022 the state has sold more than 143,000 blackout car tags to citizens of the state. In the first three months of 2024 alone, 27,056 were purchased.

But who do these specialty plates benefit?

The black out plates cost an additional $38.25. The proceeds from these plates are sent to a fund for families of law enforcement officer and fire fighters that are killed in the line of duty.

The Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters Death Benefits Trust Fund was established years ago, but in 2016 it was amended with the intent of providing more financial support to family members of these first responders. The amendment allowed eligible families to apply for nearly $100,000 for a covered individual in the event of their death.

This year’s legislation (SB 2487), would increase the death benefit up to $250,000, guaranteeing $150,000 for each family with an additional $25,000 per child (up to four children).

Senator Scott DeLano (R), author of this year’s bill, said the total amount in that account currently sits at $7.5 million.

State Sen. Scott DeLano

“It is an unfortunate thing that we have to deal with on occasion when we have our first responders who are killed in the line of duty and their families are left to deal with the aftermath,” said Senator DeLano, author of the bill. “It’s time for us to be able to let our law enforcement and first responders know how important they are to us.”

For several years, Senator DeLano said he has worked to pass legislation that positively benefits first responders and their families. Long before his tenure at the Capitol, the coast lawmaker served as a police officer in Biloxi.

“Being a former law enforcement officer there are some things that never leave you,” said DeLano. “Some people say, you can put down the badge, but it will never leave you.”

Often, there is a delay in how these payments are disbursed which can cause an undue hardship on the families of those first responders. Considering that, DeLano said the bill will authorize the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS) to write a check for $15,000 to the family’s chosen funeral home, to help with burial expenses immediately.  

The conference report also outlines that a minimum of $4 million must always remain in the account. In the event of a surplus, the Commissioner of DPS will have the authority to set up a grant fund in conjunction with the State Fire Chief for safety equipment for local communities.

The grant program will go to purchasing equipment that better helps protect officers across Mississippi.

“Our first responders courageously put on their uniforms each day, selflessly safeguarding us without the certainty of returning home. They run towards danger, while others run away,” said DPS Commissioner Sean Tindell in a social media post. “Senate Bill 2487 stands to honor their sacrifices by increasing death benefits for line-of-duty deaths, assisting with funeral expenses, and establishing a grant program to enhance statewide training and safety measures.”

(Photo from Sean Tindell Facebook)

The popularity of the black out tags has been solely word of mouth. No advertising has been done, outside of information provided upon the purchase of one of these license plates.

DeLano said the tags are just one way people can show their support of law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and other first responders who serve our communities.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: