Ayanna Pressley vows to ‘keep pushing’ $15 minimum wage, more coronavirus relief

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley said the federal government has “failed” to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and vowed to “keep pushing” the Biden administration toward the progressive policies she says are key for recovery.

“We needed to give relief to the American people,” Pressley said in Boston barely 12 hours after voting in favor of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in the U.S. House.

But she said $1,400 direct payments to many Americans and massive cash infusions to states and municipalities doesn’t go far enough in righting the ship amid the “tsunami of hurt” caused by twin public health and economic crises.

“This will mitigate some of the hurt, but I believe the federal response has failed to meet the scope and scale of this crisis,” Pressley said.

Pressley said she was encouraged by the Biden administration “saying they want to go big” on relief efforts. But she said if they want to “build back better” — Biden’s oft-used slogan — in the long term, they’ll have to “be bold.”

For Pressley, that includes $2,000 “recurring survival checks,” a $15 federal minimum wage and canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt.

The stimulus package that passed the House on nearly party lines in a 1 a.m. Saturday vote contains one-time $1,400 checks, not the $2,000 recurring sums Pressley and other progressives pushed for.

And while it included a $15 national minimum wage, that’s already set to hit a roadblock in the U.S. Senate. The Senate parliamentarian has said the measure won’t work under the complex mechanism Democrats are using to try to pass the bill without Republican support.

Pressley said relief efforts have to go beyond short-term stimulus efforts.

“This is about people buying diapers, life-saving medication, remaining safely housed, paid family leave, rent and mortgage forgiveness, eviction and foreclosure moratorium, extended and expanded unemployment,” Pressley said as she toured two vaccination clinics in the disproportionately hard-hit and largely minority communities of Chelsea and Roxbury on Saturday. “These are all the things that are necessary.”

Pressley said she’s going to “keep pushing” on economic recovery issues including canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt — about $40,000 higher per borrower than Biden recently said he’s willing to go.

“I’m just simply holding them to a higher amount to have a true impact — $10,000 canceled student debt is barely interest for most people,” the 7th District congresswoman said. “It’s critical that for a just recovery from the pandemic, we need to eliminate a bill for people. I have people in the Massachusetts 7th that are paying student loan bills that are the equivalent of a mortgage.”

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