A group of New York City taxi drivers launched a hunger strike Wednesday demanding the city provide debt relief from their taxi medallion loans. Since 9/11, thousands of taxi drivers have accrued massive debt largely due to the city artificially inflating the cost of taxi medallions, the permits required to drive a taxi. Drivers have also denounced the mental health impacts triggered by the financial ruin. At least nine have died by suicide. “At this point, drivers have an average debt of $550,000, [and] the city has basically no solution. They’ve come out with what’s really just a cash bailout to the banks with no relief for the drivers,” says Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “Thousands of families are going to be left in a debt that will be beyond their lifetime, and they’ll be earning below minimum wage just to pay it off.” Despite popular congressional support for a solution being put forth by the union, Desai says Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t been willing to discuss the proposal.
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