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By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
The afterglow of the highly successful 2023 NAPS Legislative Training Seminar continues to enlighten members of Congress and their staffs regarding the consequential issues that animate postal supervisors, managers and postmasters. The proof of our Capitol Hill successes will play out through the remainder of the calendar year.
As part of the LTS postscript, the NAPS Executive Board reviewed the survey data recorded immediately after the 500-participant event. The data was collected via a mobile app designed specifically for our conference to record LTS delegate evaluations. In sum, 99% of LTS delegates rated the 2023 event, as a whole, either “excellent” or “good,” with two-thirds rating LTS “excellent.” The “excellent” rating was 3% higher than last year’s LTS.
By the same high assessments, the 2023 delegates overwhelmingly approved the “actual” legislative training at the conference. This excellent rating improved by 5 percentage points over 2022. It is a tribute to Executive Vice President Chuck Mulidore, our congressional speakers and our engaged LTS delegates that the 2023 legislative conference shined brightly.
Sticking with measurable data points, the Pew Research Center, a noted “fact tank” that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping our nation, recently published a report that evaluated how Americans viewed federal agencies. On March 30, Pew reported that 77% of Americans rated the Postal Service “favorably.” Only the National Park Service rated higher than the Postal Service; Smokey Bear’s agency garnered an 81% approval rating.
Pew’s finding is somewhat consistent with a fall 2022 Gallup Poll, which placed the Postal Service as the top-rated federal agency, with a 60% “excellent/good” rating. At first blush, the Pew and Gallup data reflect well on the essential agency. However, data points cannot be viewed in isolation, particularly with all the toxic political and operation turmoil that ensnared the Postal Service over the past few years.
Both Pew and Gallup performed the exact same poll three years ago and, although the rankings were similar, the approval numbers reflected more favorably on the Postal Service. In 2019, Pew reported the Postal Service, with a 90% approval rating, as the top federal agency. In the same year, Gallup reported that the Postal Service was also number one, earning a 74% “excellent/good” rating.
The bottom line is that the American public’s approval of the Postal Service fell over the past three years. Pew’s measured slippage was 13 percentage points; Gallup’s was 14 percentage points. Talk about uniformity and consistency in public opinion!
It is absolutely clear the Postal Service needs to re-earn the public’s high approval. Whatever operational plan the Postal Service seeks to pursue, it must keep the American public in mind.
Active and comprehensive engagement among postal stakeholders will be essential. It’s not only opinion that the agency needs to recapture—it’s mail volume and revenue. Last year’s postal reform legislation was a first step to restore the financial stability of the agency.
Nevertheless, volume and revenue have continued to free-fall. December holiday deliveries were 1.5 billion fewer than the previous year and 3.3 billion less than five years ago. In the current fiscal year, according to unaudited financial documents filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission, the Postal Service appears to have already lost about $2.1 billion in revenue; volume dropped by about 7%.
Inflation can’t be the sole blame for the USPS’ financial woes, as operating expenses thus far have increased by less than 1%. The outstanding question is how the opaque rollout of the USPS’ delivery and sorting center initiative will impact costs and operations.
Will there be cost savings or increased costs? How will delivery timeliness be impacted? Will there be disparate effects on different communities? If so, what will be the impact on each of the communities? The questions go on and on.
As LTS attendees heard, our esteemed congressional speakers will be watching postal financials and operations. House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer and Ranking Committee Democrat Jamie Raskin both called for consistent and meaningful oversight of the Postal Service to ensure it lives up to its obligation to serve America.
Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Pete Sessions went so far as to solicit constructive postal advice with a specially created email address to his office. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Chairwoman Maggie Hassan urged NAPS members to continue the drumbeat for universal, accessible and reliable postal services.
Finally, first-term Rep. Emilia Sykes reminded LTS attendees of the difference they can make in molding postal policy. LTS was just the start of our year-long engagement with the first session of the 118th Congress and postal stakeholders who value the future of the U.S. Postal Service.
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