The U.S. Postal Service is, as its name implies, a service — one vital to the nation in delivering documents, packages and medicines.
And, yes, ballots.
Proposed agency cuts in service and how they might affect delivery of mail-in ballots in November sparked nationwide outcry, and led Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to put his planned changes on hold until after the election. That’s a commonsense move and a timeline that should have been followed from the start.
While Congress now takes up debate about emergency funding for the Postal Service, it must also look at how the agency’s future can be secured. The fact is, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat is irrelevant: The country needs a functioning postal system.
The Postal Service is one of the few government agencies that has overwhelming public support. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in March showed that 91% of Americans held a favorable view of the Postal Service, making it the most popular federal agency by a wide margin.
Americans have good reason to trust the mail system. It provides universal service to the entire country, whether in dense urban cities or remote rural areas, six days a week. It is the ultimate essential service — enjoyed by Americans for more than two centuries. And the Postal Service provides employment to one of the most diverse workforces in the country: 39% of the more than 600,000 employees are minorities. About 97,000 of its employees are military veterans.
In short, if we didn’t have such an agency, we’d probably look for ways to create one.
Although delivery has continued uninterrupted during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency’s finances have taken a serious hit. It lost $2.2 billion in the three months ending in June. The most pressing need at the moment is an emergency injection of $25 billion sought by the Postal Service.
Congressional and administration officials need to come to an agreement quickly to sustain postal operations, an important part of which is the timely delivery of mail-in ballots this November. And despite President Donald Trump’s opposition to mail-in voting, it is popular with voters from both parties. In Pennsylvania’s June primary, for example, 1.4 million people opted to vote by mail — nearly 1 million Democrats and 400,000 Republicans.
In addition, the Postal Regulatory Commission should approve the Postal Service request for temporary rate increases from mid-October through Christmas on commercial domestic parcels and other services (first-class letters would not be affected).
Beyond that, Congress must find ways to assist the Postal Service, rather than hinder it. The agency has been losing money for nearly a decade, but a substantial part of that was a 2006 congressional measure that required the agency to prefund health care benefits for future retirees to the tune of $5 billion a year for 10 years. No other government agency faced such a restrictive financial burden.
Congress should consider the proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others to allow post offices to provide banking services, particularly in underserved areas. More than 60% of post offices are located in ZIP codes with only one or no bank branches. Banking services would open a new opportunity for financial stability.
There is another way to stabilize the Postal Service — a small tax on internet purchases or on internet servers. This is the modern mail delivery system and the ultimate source of the USPS’ difficulties.
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette