U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar was joined by city and county officials on Thursday in calling for rapid congressional action to approve COVID relief dollars.

"We need to go big on this," Omar said at a news conference at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Minneapolis. A handful of Minneapolis City Council members and a member of the Hennepin County Board accompanied her.

Omar called the $1.9 trillion proposal from President Joe Biden "a necessary first step in rebuilding this nation," noting her support for some of its provisions: a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, expanded access to federal health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid and aid payments for state and local governments.

Like other prominent progressives in the Democratic Party, Omar also urged some steps Biden has not yet committed to. That included a plea that he issue an executive order canceling all student debt for Americans; Biden has said he supports canceling up to $10,000 per individual.

"We have to cancel student debt, something President Biden could do tomorrow with a stroke of his pen," Omar said.

She also called for monthly relief payments beyond the $1,400 checks proposed in Biden's package. "We need monthly reoccurring payments like most of the rest of the world," Omar said.

The local officials on hand said there is an urgent need to provide assistance to local and state governments, which were not part of the last round of COVID relief in December. Municipalities have been bearing the brunt of the economic fallout as they try to deliver front-line assistance to those most affected, said Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley.

"In 2008, we bailed out Wall Street," Conley said. "This time we need to bail out the American people."

Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413