The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will run out of money by the end of September if U.S. Congress doesn’t provide emergency funding, according to Postmaster-General Megan Brennan, who gave a private briefing to some members of Congress on Thursday. The news comes as the Postal Service is haemorrhaging cash from the coronavirus pandemic and hundreds of postal workers have fallen ill with covid-19.
Brennan told members of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday that the covid-19 pandemic “is having a devastating effect on our business,” at a time when “America needs the Postal Service more than ever.” USPS expects to lose at least $US13 ($20) billion in revenue directly related to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus crisis and will lose billions more over the next decade.
The Postal Service Board of Governors, which was appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, has asked Congress to provide $US25 ($39) billion in emergency funding for USPS, an additional $US25 ($39) billion in grants for so-called “shovel-ready” modernisation projects, and $US25 ($39) billion that can be borrowed from the U.S. Treasury. But it’s not clear that any of that funding will come through in the current political stalemate.
The Postal Service employs more than 650,000 people directly, over 600 of whom have tested positive for covid-19, according to the Wall Street Journal, 12 of whom have died. Thousands more are currently in quarantine over fears that they may have been exposed to the virus, leading to some delays in deliveries in hotspots like New York. The state has been the hardest hit region in the country, with over 161,000 cases and at least 7,067 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
The main obstacle to saving the Postal Service appears to be the Trump regime and a Republican establishment that has wanted to privatize the agency for decades. There were vicious fights in the mid-1990s over privatization of USPS that thankfully went nowhere, but Republicans now see an opportunity.
From the New York Times:
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, squashed a bipartisan attempt to send the agency emergency funds last month, insisting instead that his department be given new authority to lend up to $US10 ($16) billion to the Postal Service on terms it helps set, according to officials familiar with the negotiations who described them on the condition of anonymity.
Some lawmakers, postal union representatives and others who rely on the service now fear that the Trump administration is trying to use the current crisis to achieve conservatives’ longstanding goal of nudging the mail service toward privatization—either by setting highly prescriptive loan terms or by essentially forcing it into bankruptcy. That would aid commercial competitors like FedEx and UPS.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a covid-19 downplayer and far-right arsehole, has been one of the main obstacles to getting the Postal Service the funding that it needs, according to the Times. But there are plenty of Democrats who are doing their best to fight for USPS and the essential service it provides Americans.
“The Postal Service is fighting for its survival, putting in jeopardy the careers and paychecks of its 650,000 employees—as well as the more than $US1.7 ($3) trillion mailing industry that employs more than 7.5 million people,” Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia said in a statement posted online.
“We cannot allow the Postal Service to collapse,” Connolly continued. “To do so would deepen our nation’s economic crisis and eliminate an important lifeline for individuals who rely on the Postal Service’s 1 billion deliveries of lifesaving prescription deliveries and eviscerate the very infrastructure we need to administer the upcoming elections.”
The Postal Service received some funding with the bipartisan $US2 ($3) trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, but it’s not enough to actually keep the agency afloat past September 30. And it’s no surprise that USPS is getting short-changed, with President Trump continually seeking ways to erode American institutions in favour of private wealth creation for his rich friends.
The only thing we can do at this point is hope that level-headed legislators sound the alarm and save the Postal Service when everything else is going to shit. And with almost 17 million people applying for unemployment in the past three weeks, things are definitely going to get a lot worse before they get better.
“I want to commend the brave men and women of the Postal Service for all they are doing in the midst of this pandemic,” Democratic chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of North Carolina, said in a statement posted online.
“The Postal Service is holding on for dear life, and unless Congress and the White House provide meaningful relief in the next stimulus bill, the Postal Service could cease to exist.”