ECU PARTY WITH 400 STUDENTS BROKEN UP BY POLICE: The parties, which violate the state’s ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, were held last week and over the weekend at East Carolina University, Lt. Chris Sutton of the university’s police department told McClatchy News Wednesday. The party with 400 people was held a few blocks from the school in an area dominated by off-campus student housing, according to Sutton. He said it was filled “predominantly" with people who were college-aged. They dispersed once authorities arrived. Officers then spoke with the tenants of the property “so that they understand why this is not acceptable right now and what they can do to help us moving forward,” he added. Classes started at the university on Monday. Students were not required to be tested for the virus before returning to campus, but “encouraged” to do so by school officials, the news outlet reported.
MAYOR OF WASHINGTON NC DIES FROM COVID 19: The mayor of Washington, North Carolina, has died from complications of COVID-19, the city announced Wednesday night. Mac Hodges, who has been mayor since 2013, was tested for COVID-19 on July 15 with the positive results coming the following day, The Washington Daily News reported. Hodges, whose nickname was “Bear,” was described as a “legend and a leader,” according to a City of Washington Facebook post. He has been hospitalized since at least July 24, according to a Facebook post from his daughter, Beth Hodges Fickling, who has provided near daily updates about her father’s condition. On July 29, doctors made the decision to place Hodges on a ventilator, and he remained intubated until his death Wednesday afternoon. Hodges was a native of Beaufort County and gradated from East Carolina University, according to the Washington Daily News. He was a real estate agent before starting Hodges Appraisals, the newspaper reports.
GOVERNOR COOPER SAYS STATE IS READY TO COMPLY WITH TRUMP UNEMPLOYMENT DEAL: Gov. Roy Cooper told lawmakers Wednesday that the state is working on the $400 boost to unemployment benefits President Donald Trump rolled out over the weekend. Those benefits require a state match: If North Carolina puts up $100 a week, the federal government will pay $300. "My administration has already begun preparing the application for the payments," Cooper said in a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Cooper said Wednesday that the state's share should come from its Unemployment Trust Fund, normally tapped to pay state unemployment benefits, and not federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, which Congress doled out to states earlier this year. "With no federal help in sight, CRF money should be reserved for additional critical pandemic needs like helping small businesses, schools and health care," Cooper said in his letter.
TRUMP BRAGS ABOUT BLOCKING FUNDING FOR THE POST OFFICE: President Trump says the U.S. Postal Service is incapable of facilitating mail-in voting because it cannot access the emergency funding he is blocking, and made clear that requests for additional aid were nonstarters in coronavirus relief negotiations. Trump, who has been railing against mail-in balloting for months, said the cash-strapped agency’s enlarged role in the November election would perpetuate “one of the greatest frauds in history.” Speaking Wednesday at his daily pandemic news briefing, Trump said he would not approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, or $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for election resources, citing prohibitively high costs. “They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Trump said. “Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?” Trump’s remarks came hours after congressional Democrats intensified calls for more oversight of the agency and the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major Republican donor and Trump ally. The effort comes after DeJoy ushered a wholesale reorganization of agency’s executive ranks, restructured operations and instituted a hiring freeze on top of other cost-cutting measures already being blamed for significant mail backups. Two House Democrats, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.) and Rep. Alma Adams (N.C.), called for DeJoy’s removal over the weekend. USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall informed state leaders that, depending on their respective deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot and casting a vote by mail, sending election items third class may cause voters to miss crucial cutoff points. Bulk mail delivery takes three to 10 days, according to the Postal Service, while first-class mail delivery takes two to five days.
KAMALA HARRIS BRINGS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE TO THE TICKET: The Climate Equity Act, an expanded version of a bill Ms. Harris and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, introduced last year, puts the environmental health of low-income communities of color at the center of efforts to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gases. Environmental leaders said the move sent an important signal: Not only would a Biden-Harris ticket prioritize addressing climate change, but it would focus on ensuring communities already burdened by pollution would benefit from a transition to clean energy. “It says that environmental justice will be a priority, that focusing on our most vulnerable communities and comprehensive strategies will be a priority,” Mustafa Santiago Ali, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice office in the Obama administration. Mr. Ali, who currently serves as vice president of environmental justice at the National Wildlife Federation, said that addressing climate policy is broader than top-down measures like a carbon tax, and should include housing justice, public health and food security. He noted that Ms. Harris has spent several years working on issues like promoting safe drinking water in low-income communities. Ms. Harris, he said, “is part of a new generation of leaders that are understanding that for us to be truly effective in addressing the climate crisis we have to include people in the process.”