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Postal Service vital, deserving of support, stimulus assistance

Guest editorial

The economic crisis caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected countless businesses but the U.S. Postal Service as well.

Due to the pandemic, it is estimated that mail volume and revenue may drop by 50% or more in the coming months. The Postal Service has advised Congress it will run out of cash by the end of September unless Congress and the Trump Administration provide financial assistance to get it through the COVID-19 crisis.

Established in 1775, the year before our country was formed, the post office is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution. It is the nation’s only truly universal delivery and communications network, connecting 160 million homes and businesses in every corner of the country six days a week.

The USPS, with 640,000 employees, is among the country’s largest employers — and the largest civilian employer of veterans.

The Postal Service handles 40% of the world’s mail, providing American citizens and businesses the most affordable and efficient delivery services. Since the early ’80s, the USPS has operated without the use of tax dollars, relying solely on revenue generated from postage and other postal products. Survey results released by the Pew Research Center in early April named the Postal Service as the highest-rated federal agency with a 91% favorability rating.

Postal services and post offices are particularly critical to rural areas, small towns, the elderly, military veterans and millions of small and medium-sized businesses.

The Postal Service also is essential to the political and cultural life of America, delivering hundreds of millions of magazines and weekly newspapers each year, plus billions of business-related and personal communications. It routinely handles tens of millions of ballots delivered to voters who request absentee ballots or who live in states that conduct elections by mail.

The USPS also plays an important role in the health care system, handling 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments a year – that’s nearly 4 million every day, six days a week. It also delivers hundreds of millions of lab tests and medical supply shipments.

The Postal Service also provides “last-mile” delivery for tens of millions of packages for FedEx, UPS and Amazon.

The universal reach of the postal network is invaluable to all Americans but especially to those in rural, inner city and exurban areas that would not be served if not for the Postal Service.

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES, signed into law March 27 did not provide support for the USPS as it did for airlines ($61 billion), private cargo shippers ($17 billion) and corporations ($425 billion). The exclusion of the Postal Service in this legislation was due to opposition by the Trump Administration and a threat of a presidential veto if the legislation contained financial assistance for the USPS.

The administration’s disdain for the Postal Service is not new. The motive behind this funding refusal is the desire for the USPS to fail so it can be privatized. Evidence of this fact can be found in a 2018 White House Office of Management and Budget report titled “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” calling for the Postal Service to be sold to private corporations. It appears the COVID-19 pandemic is now being used as a means to aid in this effort.

A privatized Postal Service without a universal delivery mandate would be devastating; focusing on profitable areas and either not providing service or charging exorbitant rates in others.

The Postal Service financial problems before the coronavirus pandemic largely were caused by 2006 legislation requiring the USPS to prefund future retiree pension and health benefits 75 years into the future for people not even born yet, instead of on a pay-as-you-go basis as was the practice. This is a requirement no other agency or company is forced to employ. Absent this law, the Postal Service would have realized a profit in a majority of the years between 2006 and the present.

Now, with the loss of mail volume and costs increasing, the Postal Service must have support from the next stimulus bill. The pandemic-induced loss of revenue facing the USPS is no less dramatic than for airlines and corporations. The Postal Service needs the same level of assistance provided to those entities.

The Postal Board of Governors, comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, has unanimously called upon Congress for $89 billion in funding to stabilize a service that affects millions of American households and businesses.

Postal workers are in harm’s way on the front line of this pandemic, continuing to serve the American public. Postmaster General Megan Brennan said during an appeal for funding that postal workers “provide an essential public service and bind the nation together.” As of this writing, more than 1,200 postal workers have tested positive for coronavirus, thousands are quarantined and 44 have died.

The Postal Service, held in high regard by the public, is a national treasure, providing a vital service for the past 245 years. In order to save it, all of us — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — must stand together and demand that Washington protect it, not dismantle it.

Action is urgently needed! Please contact your congressional representatives and urge them to support funding for the Postal Service in the next stimulus bill. Further material addressing this issue, including congressional contact information is available on the website usmailnotforsale.org.

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