By Allison Behrens, Congress Watch intern
While the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 120,000 people in this country and sickened millions, it has also harmed the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) because of sharply declining non-package mail volumes. Because the USPS relies on postage to pay for its costs, fewer letters means trouble for this essential public service. All across the United States, people are relying on the postal service even more than ever to deliver necessary items like medicine as well as provide a social connection in times of physical distance. And, the USPS will be vital to ensuring Americans’ voices are heard in our elections through vote-by-mail programs.
Here is a video from Public Citizen’s president, Robert Weissman, discussing the importance of the USPS:
As explained in the video, the USPS was suffering even before the pandemic because of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required USPS to create a fund to pre-pay for retirement healthcare costs for their workers for 75 years, which no other federal agency or private company is required to do. This pre-funding mandate has led to losses instead of profits for the USPS, which those who oppose USPS have used as an excuse to call for the privatization of the postal service. Privatizing the postal service would be devastating for consumers who rely on low cost delivery to all corners of the country, including remote rural areas.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened USPS’s situation, congressional lawmakers included a $10 billion loan in the CARES Act COVID relief package. But, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has blocked any effort to provide the loan because the Trump administration is pushing for harmful conditions to be placed on the loan like increasing costs by four times or more.
However, the administration’s view clearly doesn’t reflect the will of the country or that of many members of Congress. Recently, Hart Research and North Star Opinion Research conducted a survey that found that 94% of voters across party lines say that the services the USPS provides is important to them, and 64% specify that these services are very important. 10 Senators have signed a bipartisan letter to Senate leaders calling for support for USPS funding and 30 Senators have signed a letter to Sec. Mnuchin urging that the USPS $10 billion loan from the CARES Act be quickly implemented without conditions. And, the House-passed HEROES Act provided for a $25 billion appropriation to the USPS as an emergency funding source to get it through the pandemic, along with possibilities for $10 billion in credit without conditions and protections for postal workers.
On June 23, Public Citizen joined with allies from organizations like the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and Take on Wall Street to participate in a car caravan in Washington D.C. to deliver millions of petition signatures to show the Senate the overwhelming public support for funding the USPS. Included in that delivery were the more than 11,400 Public Citizen members’ and supporters’ signatures on a petition to Congress saying “Make sure the [USPS] has all the funding it needs, now and in the future, no strings attached.” Check out #SaveThePostOffice and #USPSIsOURPriority on Twitter to see some of the pictures from the DC car caravan as well as from actions that took place across America.
Please tell your Senators that USPS services are vital and voters across parties support giving it appropriate levels of funding—without conditions– during this crucial time.