- The US Postal Service needs funding to help it stay afloat, or else it will run out of money in about four months’ time.
- A new aid package proposed by House Democrats includes $US25 billion of direct funding for the agency, but it’s far from guaranteed.
- A union representing USPS employees said about 5,000 are in quarantine due to COVID-19, and 60 have died.
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The United States Postal Service, currently being hit hard as letter-mail volume plummets during the COVID-19 pandemic, is in need of rapid emergency funding.
While previous estimates put a June expiration date on the USPS if it didn’t get the necessary financial help, the post office now expects to be able to survive through September. It’s not exactly a sigh of relief, but it is a few extra months.
This is according to a May 13 statement from the National Association of Letter Carriers, which is the national labour union of city carriers employed by the USPS. In it, the union pushed that June deadline back, but just by a bit.
“As letter carriers know, the conversation about Postal Service finances is nothing new,” NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said in the statement. “Unfortunately, this pandemic continues to cripple the economy, resulting in sharp declines in letter mail volume for the Postal Service. It currently projects that it will exhaust its cash on hand by the end of September if Congress and the White House fail to intervene.”
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.
But things have gotten really ugly during the pandemic. The estimates of how long the USPS can last have changed over the course of it, but all share one thing in common: They’re soon.
Business Insider previously reported in March that without the funding, the USPS could find itself shuttered by June. In April, the belief was that the USPS could “run out of cash” by October, according to Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan.
The NALC statement mentioned the new coronavirus aid package released by House Democrats on May 12, which includes $US25 billion in direct funding for the USPS and a hazard-pay provision for postal employees. The bill would do away with restrictions on a $US10 billion credit line that was put into effect in a previous stimulus package.
As people continue to rely on package delivery services while they stay at home, delivery workers have been on the frontlines of exposure. In late March, 2,000 USPS employees were in quarantine and 51 had tested positive for COVID-19.
Those numbers have only skyrocketed since. The NALC statement said about 5,000 employees are currently quarantined, with more than 12,000 previously quarantined people cleared and back at work – including about 1,000 who tested positive and recovered. Roughly 900 of the currently quarantined employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and another 500 are thought to be positive as well. Sixty have died from the virus.
Employees have told Business Insider that a lack of supplies, sick pay, and care from supervisors is putting them at risk.
In April, there were reports that Donald Trump rejected a bailout package that would save the USPS. The move could impact the 2020 elections pretty seriously, as more and more states adopt voting by mail systems. And despite saying that he’d “never let [the] post office fail,” the president also refused to sign additional bailout funds to the agency unless it increased rates on Amazon, which relies heavily on the USPS.
Rolando urged letter carriers to contact their senators about approving the funding in the next stimulus package. The USPSdoes not receive tax dollars for its operating expenses. Instead, it relies on postage and product sales and services as funding.
This story previously stated that the 2006 law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, required the USPS to prefund pensions. The law requires it to have a funded status pensions and healthcare, thus the latter has been added.