Congress is failing the U.S. Postal Service, again, and with it, the nation. USPS warned recently that it could run out of money to operate by June because of the massive fall in the level of mail being sent during coronavirus business closures. Democrats tried to include money in the recent stimulus, but the only help that ended up in the final bill was $10 billion in loans that are subject to approval by the Treasury Department.
The decline in mail being sent doesn’t mean mail is less important—it means, in large part, that the people who rely most on mail are now the most vulnerable people. People who need their prescription medications. People who live in rural areas not well served by other delivery services. But democracy also needs the mail. Vote by mail will be more important than ever if COVID-19 remains a threat in the fall.
Millions of people vote by mail, with some states having universal vote-by-mail and many others allowing absentee voting by mail. That’s something we need to expand, not endanger by weakening the USPS.
We’re also talking about an organization that employs 630,000 people. One in five is African American and more than 100,000 are veterans. Every day, postal workers are risking their health by going to work to make sure we get our mail. More than 100 have tested positive for COVID-19 and one has died.
And while the USPS is in crisis, that crisis was manufactured by Republicans. Congress imposed a mandate on the USPS to prepay retiree health benefits decades into the future and does not allow the postal service to compete with private business—and then USPS comes under attack for not being profitable. Your local post office should be a center for services like faxing, notary publics, hunting and fishing licenses, and more. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been a longtime champion of the USPS, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has pushed for postal banking, which would not only give the post office a boost but would connect low-income people with nonpredatory banking.
The coronavirus crisis should be making us see that we need more public goods, not allow the ones we have to die off—or be killed by Republicans for whom that’s long been a goal. The USPS needs funding now.