America's Postal Service is made up of real heroes. This is no time to let it die
By Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations
The United States Postal Service is in crisis, and one person is standing in the way of its salvation: President Donald J. Trump.
President Trump, who seems to be driven by his animus for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, continues to blame Amazon's deliveries for the financial decline of our Postal Service. His mistaken solution has been to raise prices on consumers, and he has refused to throw a lifeline to the more than 630,000 dedicated postal employees who serve every American household and business in our country.
Rural and urban, Democrat, Republican or Independent, every one of us has come to rely on the Postal Service.
Even amid a global pandemic, these public servants continue to deliver food, prescription drugs, benefit checks and essential packages to Americans every single day. This despite the fact that more than 2,000 USPS employees have tested positive, or are presumed to have had Covid-19, and dozens of postal workers have died from symptoms related to the virus.
They are heroes and deserve our support.
Now the facts: In April, the USPS said it would run out of money by September if it doesn't receive a federal infusion of cash. While some in Congress and the White House blame the USPS for fiscal mismanagement and bad deals, the reality is the Postal Service is in the crisis for two reasons -- both out of its control.
During a recent congressional briefing Postal Service officials told us that package delivery has accounted for around 30% of all Postal Service revenue while mail volume has declined 25-30% during the pandemic.
But even continued, record-breaking package delivery volumes will not save the Postal Service long term. It will not provide enough revenue to update a crumbling, 26- to 33-year-old fleet. And it will not plug the problems festering across the vast Postal Service network that need technology updates and building maintenance.
In fact, updated financial projections from the Postal Service recently provided to Congress anticipate a liquidity crisis between March and October of next year -- despite the increases in package sales. Financial losses directly related to Covid-19 are estimated to range between $7 billion and $17 billion in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 alone.
This pain is compounded by a decades-long assault on the Postal Service, with a goal of privatizing it. In 2006, for example, Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The law made the Postal Service the only organization in the federal government required to pre-pay the anticipated healthcare costs of its current and future employees.
Now The Washington Post reports that the Trump White House is exploiting an unprecedented pandemic to execute a takeover of the Postal Service, trying to compel it to accept impossible loan terms and cede unprecedented decision-making to the Treasury Department.
It would be a financial straitjacket that would hurt any organization.
The backlash to the White House's efforts has been swift and forceful. Requests for President Trump to save the Postal Service have trended on social media nationwide, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions or contacted their elected representatives in support of the agency.
Even in these times of harsh discourse and hardened partisanship, Americans are nearly unanimous in their support for the Postal Service. According to a bipartisan poll commissioned by the National Association of Letter Carriers, a union for USPS delivery workers, about 95% of Democrats and 92% of Republicans believe the Post Office is important to them and their families today.
In total, 92% of voters support emergency intervention for the Postal Service, and 78% think those funds should come from the federal government, not from consumers' pocketbooks in the form of higher shipping rates. The American people have a united message: We support the Postal Service, and we want it saved.
We just spent billions in taxpayer dollars to bail out the airline industry, and now it is threatening to lay off workers and reduce hours.
The Postal Service on the other hand, continues to serve 160 million households and businesses while propelling a $1.6 trillion US mailing industry that employs more than 7.3 million people from the greeting card industry, magazine industry, online retailers and small businesses.
The Heroes Act, which recently passed the House, includes $25 billion to save the United States Postal Service and ends the Treasury Department's blockade of the $10 billion loan previously authorized for USPS in the CARES Act.
An additional $25 billion for capital investment is included in H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act.
These injections of much-needed funds will allow the Postal Service to make reforms that catalyze long-term financial success. But make no mistake, if President Trump and Senate Republicans demand anything less than this, the Postal Service will continue to sink.
Failure to include this funding in the next phase of coronavirus response legislation will condemn an American institution to its demise. Mr. President, it's time to get out of the way and save the Postal Service for America.
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