- The White House in March sent postcards with health guidelines for the coronavirus to 130 million households.
- The mailing cost the Post Office, already facing a financial crisis because of the pandemic, $US28 million.
- President Trump has said he won’t sign a bailout of the agency unless it raises prices on customers like Amazon.
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The 130 million postcards sent to American households in March containing “President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America” cost the struggling Post Office $US28 million, further complicating the White House’s strained relationship with the independent federal agency.
A Postal Service representative confirmed to Business Insider that the mailers, which were decried by government watchdog groups at the time as self-promotion, cost $US4.6 million to print and another $US23.4 million to mail. That’s a tiny sliver of the USPS’ 2019 revenue of $US71 billion, but couldn’t come at a worse time, as the agency’s finances have been ruined by the coronavirus pandemic.
The spokesperson passed along the following statement:
“The United States Postal Service is fully committed to continuing to fulfil our role as a provider of essential government services, and to assisting the Administration in whatever way we can during this national emergency. In this instance we utilised the unrivalled reach of our network, which is a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure to help the Administration and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to provide important information concerning the COVID-19 virus to every American household. The mailing was sent to every residential location (including PO Boxes) across the country – 138 million addresses.:
Earlier in May, postal officials warned that the agency could run out of cash by September without further financial relief from Congress. That’s something Trump explicitly said he would not support unless it raises prices on customers like Amazon, which rely on the service to deliver packages to rural areas where it would lose money delivering itself.
“I will never let our Post Office fail,” Trump wrote on Twitter in April. “It has been mismanaged for years, especially since the advent of the internet and modern-day technology. The people that work there are great, and we’re going to keep them happy, healthy, and well!”
He later piled on to that criticism: “The Postal Service is a joke,” he told reporters at the White House. And in May, Trump appointed a new Postmaster General, major Republican donor Louis DeJoy.
The Postal Service’s financial struggles and Trump’s criticism of the agency are not new. The biggest stressor on the USPS’ finances over the past decade has been a 2006 law, which required the USPS to calculate how much money it would need for pensions and healthcare over the coming 75 years and build a fund to cover that amount. Of the agency’s $US62.4 billion in losses from 2007 to 2016, the USPS’ inspector general attributed $US54.8 billion to that pre-funding requirement.
And because the Post Office receives no tax dollars for its operations, the agency and its employees unions have warned that reduced service because of revenue shortfalls thanks to the coronavirus could interrupt vote-by-mail efforts (another lightning rod of Trump criticism), medicine deliveries, and more.
Kristen Lee contributed to this report.