If you missed reporter Fred Clasen-Kelly’s story in Friday’s Observer about a Winston-Salem woman’s unconscionable treatment by the state of North Carolina, go find it.
Kelly tells the story of Francine Braun Wolberg. Her husband, Mark, died unexpectedly in June 2014. Sixteen months later, despite endless pleading, Wolberg still doesn’t know her husband’s cause of death.
That kept her from collecting annuity payments she needed for her daughter’s college tuition. And it has prevented her from taking any legal action because lawyers wouldn’t take her case without a cause-of-death ruling.
“This should be an embarrassment to the governor, the legislature and the medical examiner’s office,” she told Kelly. “I don’t know if this is malfeasance, but it is inhumane.”
She’s right – and the state has allowed it to take place for many years. Families across North Carolina are left distraught, with no closure, and often unable to collect life insurance. Sometimes foul play goes undetected.
An Observer series in 2001 detailed the problems. Another Observer series last year showed how the legislature has allowed the medical examiner’s shortcomings to persist.
State Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch sent Wolberg an email saying, basically, that she was too busy to get to Wolberg’s case. It’s tempting to blame Radisch and her office. But the real responsibility falls on legislators who have chronically underfunded the medical examiner’s office for decades. Their refusal to fix a clearly broken system for so long has inflicted deep and unnecessary pain on families when they are most vulnerable.
The legislature passed some reforms in its recent session. But they go halfway, and the office remains underfunded. Legislators should look Francine Wolberg in the eye and explain themselves.
No one has to tell working parents how ridiculously expensive child care has become in this country. Still, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., certainly puts an eye-opening exclamation point on that fact.
That study showed that a year of child care for a 4-year-old costs about 16 percent more than a year’s tuition at UNC Chapel Hill.
While college tuition costs have caught the attention of presidential candidates and policymakers, rising child care expenses provide a less-noticed but equally distressing financial squeeze at the other end of the child-rearing spectrum.
Child care expenses for families with two children exceeded the cost of rent in 500 of 618 communities studied. For a full-time minimum-wage worker in North Carolina, the annual child care costs for a 4-year-old devours half of all earnings.
Few resources are as critical to low-income working parents as safe, affordable child care, but the state has cut spending on child care and early childhood programs.
Republicans love to talk about their respect for tax-paying, hard-working families. Perhaps instead of giving another round of tax cuts to the wealthy, they should boost child care subsidies and cut pre-kindergarten waiting lists for at-risk 4-year-olds. Then they wouldn’t just be talking about how much they respect the working poor. They’d be showing it.