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Unfounded Attacks Levied on the USPS
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
In early spring, just as the coronavirus pandemic was securing a foothold in the United States, the Pew Research Center published its periodic analysis of views the American public held regarding federal institutions. Topping the list was the U.S. Postal Service.
Over the past half-decade, the much-heralded institution has earned high marks, averaging 90% approval. Our country will rely on the USPS to help salvage the economy, enabling merchants to connect with customers and safeguard our democracy by providing a safe, reliable and secure alternative to in-person voting.
Nevertheless, the Postal Service has been targeted, ridiculed and delegitimized by those at the highest levels of our government. The Postal Service continues to find itself in a personal feud between President Trump and Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. Now, the Postal Service is being rendered collateral damage over the president’s baseless objection to mail-in balloting.
Denying the Postal Service essential pandemic-related financial relief, delegitimatizing postal reliability and weakening the agency’s capacity to provide quality services are elements of the postal assault. It appears quite obvious that multiple bad players are trying to drive a wedge between the “people’s post office” and Americans who depend on it.
Fortunately, NAPS’ allies in Congress have been striving to immunize the Postal Service from the economic and health effects of COVID-19 and from toxic political interference. To wit, two bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress: the “Postal Preservation Act” (H.R. 7015) and the “Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act” (S. 4174).
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) introduced H.R. 7015; Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S. 4174. Both bills include up to $25 billion in emergency aid to the agency and priority acquisition of PPE for postal employees. Also, S. 4147 would rescind the conditions the Treasury Department demanded tied to a $10 billion line of credit extended to the Postal Service as part of the “CARES Act” (H.R. 748).
These ill-conceived conditions include a requirement that the USPS reveal proprietary information to UPS and FedEx, as well as other yet-to-be-disclosed stipulations. NAPS has been pushing for provisions in H.R. 7015 and S. 4174 to be included in COVID-19 relief legislation.
The necessity of such legislation is borne out by the financial impact the pandemic has had on the Postal Service. Despite meaningful growth in small parcels, First-Class Mail declined by 11% in April and May. It is important to understand that delivery of the government stimulus checks and 2020 census forms lessened the financial hit. Marketing mail plunged by 43% during the same period.
The one glimmer of good news was that parcel volume increased by 48%. All said, the revenue generated during April and May was about 0.5% lower than the same period last year. While the Postal Service will not run out of cash at the end of this month, as originally projected by USPS executives, the agency now projects insolvency either by next spring or October 2021. The projections hinge on whether parcel volume falls below pre-pandemic levels or not.
NAPS has been working on Capitol Hill to help sustain our historic federal agency. We are fighting to ensure the Postal Service has the resources to remain the most-valued federal agency and has the capacity to serve as the trusted intermediary between state election authorities and American voters.
Efforts to undermine the quality of services the Postal Service provides to the public or to discredit its integrity are being met with a stiff rebuke by our congressional allies. In late July, the House passed an amendment to a multi-agency appropriations bill (H.R. 7617) prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to “implement the Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation pilot program or to make any change to service or operations standards as in effect on July 31, 2020.”
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Maloney offered this amendment out of deep and legitimate concern about the reported new postal operational instructions that would affect the timeliness of mail delivery and undermine the Postal Service’s ability to provide timely transit of absentee balloting for the upcoming general election. The Maloney amendment was approved by a voice vote.
In early August, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy participated in a meeting called by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. The meeting took place in Pelosi’s office in the U.S. Capitol. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also attended.
The agenda revolved around reports that operational changes are impacting mail service and have heightened concerns the changes could complicate upcoming absentee balloting. One day after the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer sent a letter to DeJoy, requesting documentation of the Postal Service’s plans to handle election-related mail and a detailed analysis of how those operational changes will impact mail service.
In addition, Maloney has scheduled a Sept. 17 hearing before her panel on the Postal Service’s operational changes. In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy confirming his participation, Maloney wrote that the committee will “examine recent changes to U.S. Postal Service operations and standards and the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election, which, as you know, may be held largely by mail-in ballot.”
A number of House- and Senate-authored letters have been addressed to DeJoy, seeking justification for controversial operational changes. In addition, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) took the Postal Service to task for posting closure and hour reduction notices on post office doors. In response, the agency asserted miscommunication on the part of local operational managers and removed the notices. Nevertheless, in early August, Manchin introduced legislation (S. 4435) to prohibit closing postal facilities during the pandemic.
NAPS members need to redouble their efforts to educate their elected legislators of the importance, reliability, security and credibility of the most-approved agency in the United States. Only through our collaborative efforts will we withstand these unfounded attacks on our cherished institution.