Bailout or raise prices? The battle over how to save the Postal Service

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:44 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor pandemic will keep postal workers from delivering your mail.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is older than our country, but it is heading toward financial trouble. The service predicts it will run out of money in 2021.

Deciding how to save USPS is a complicated and decade-long fight in Washington. Some are calling for Congress to bail it out, but new leadership at the postal service could mean changes for the historic institution.

“If they run out of money, then how do you operate? How do you go to every address? How do you go every day? How do you do it at all?” American Postal Workers Union president Mark Dimondstein said.

Dimondstein wants the government to bail out the Postal Service. USPS currently funds its operations from sales revenue, not from taxpayers.

And while package revenue has increased over the years, revenue from first-class mail, like sending letters or bills, continues to drop.

USPS is now asking Congress for $75 billion to cover things like infrastructure upgrades and revenue lost from the pandemic.

A bailout has bipartisan support in the House. In April, the Postal Preservation Caucus was launched. In a letter to congressional leadership, members of the caucus, including Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., supported the $75 billion USPS asked for.

“The post office is a fabric of the community, very important part of the infrastructure in communities all over the nation, but especially in rural communities,” said Amodei.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have also voiced support for giving some relief to the postal service. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine introduced the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act.

The bill would provide $25 billion to USPS to make up for revenue losses from the pandemic and require the service to provide a long term financial plan to Congress.

“The last thing we need is a collapse or closure of the Postal Service, and that would particularly hurt small rural communities,” Collins said.

But instead of a bailout, the Trump administration has a different idea.

A 2018 White House plan includes raising the price of stamps and package delivery, reducing worker wages and benefits, decreasing the number of delivery days and ending the obligation to deliver everywhere.

And now, USPS is under new leadership. Louis DeJoy, a former fundraiser for the Republican National Committee, took over as postmaster general in June. He was selected by the USPS Board of Governors, whose members were nominated by President Donald Trump and approved by the Senate.

In a video to employees, DeJoy discusses the need to find new ways to have an effective business model.

But if the White House or DeJoy are serious about making changes, they’ll have to get lawmakers on board. Congress has to approve any changes to the rules of operation.

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