A coalition of grassroots organizations in New England joined state and federal lawmakers in calling on President Joe Biden to pass the THRIVE Agenda, a roadmap developed by 150 progressive groups nationwide directing lawmakers to use $10 trillion in federal funds to address the climate crisis while empowering workers, communities of color, tribal nations, and people affected by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, members of Renew New England, a grassroots coalition that is pushing for the key policy goals of the Green New Deal in the state houses of New England, joined Maine state Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth), U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in a virtual press conference. They said a $2.25 trillion infrastructure package unveiled by the Biden administration this week is a welcome start, but even more robust investment is needed to rise to the challenge of the moment.
“We are facing a series of intersecting crises — climate change, a public health pandemic, racial injustice, and economic inequality. We know that we cannot defeat any of these crises alone. We must develop a roadmap for recovery that addresses them all at the same time,” said Markey.
“I am working with the Biden administration to continue to push for a bold and ambitious final package, to push for a plan that meets the scale and scope of this crisis and sets bold and aggressive standards for our recovery,” Markey said. “That’s what our THRIVE Act is all about. We need a plan that will put people back to work, put money back in pockets, but will also fight systemic racism, protect public health, and drastically cut down on climate pollution. We can’t go back to business-as-usual.”
The THRIVE agenda, which stands for “Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy,” has a similar goal as the Green New Deal, introduced by Markey and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019.
The new spending agenda strives to meet the most ambitious target set in the Paris agreement, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The plan is designed to do so by building carbon-neutral infrastructure by creating close to 16 million new union jobs.
The THRIVE agenda is backed by groups like the Sunrise Movement, Indigenous Environmental Network, and the Movement for Black Lives. The agenda also has support in the U.S. Senate with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) signed on as co-sponsors.
Addressing climate, jobs, and housing crises in Maine
During Wednesday’s briefing, Millett echoed Markey’s remarks on the need for federal leadership and highlighted how the funds would be used to address urgent unmet needs at the state level.
“Here in Maine we’re fighting as hard as we can to address the climate crisis, rampant inequality, and racial injustice but we also need Congress and the Biden administration to pass the THRIVE agenda to make economy-wide investments tackling injustice, pollution, and joblessness,” she said.
In the Maine Legislature, Millett is the lead sponsor of LR 1448, a proposed $100 million housing bond for the next two years to fund the construction of 20,000 energy-efficient affordable housing units to help address Maine’s housing shortage.
“We all agree that everyone needs a decent place to live. But more than 20,000 Maine households don’t have one. And our housing crisis isn’t just about housing,” Millett said. “What do I mean by that? Well, Maine has a severe shortage of affordable rental homes — which means tens of thousands of Mainers need to make tough choices every month to make the rent.”
The green housing bond is a top priority of the Renew New England coalition, which includes 350 Maine, A Climate to Thrive, Jewish Action Maine, Maine Women’s Lobby, New Mainers Alliance, Presente! Maine, Raise-Op Housing Cooperative and Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project), as well as tribal leaders from the Penobscot Nation, among others.
The bond proposal would not only begin to tackle Maine’s housing crisis while hitting target environmental building standards, it would also help boost the state’s declining workforce, Millett said.
“Housing in our state is routinely built by underpaid workers with inadequate labor protections, forcing many construction workers and tradespeople to commute to other states for work that pays enough for them to live on,” she explained. “Because working conditions in Maine are sub-par for skilled construction workers and tradespeople, Maine has a depleted workforce necessary to build the kind of affordable housing we need.”
“By raising the wages and benefits of these highly-skilled jobs and growing the pipeline of skilled workers, we can ease Maine’s affordable housing shortage today while making progress toward meeting Maine’s long-term and growing need for good jobs with fair pay and great benefits and helping build Maine’s future skilled workforce. All while taking steps to address the climate crisis,” Millett said.
Top photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images
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