House coalition sees public support for USPS as leverage for emergency funding negotiations

With the Postal Service reeling from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration last week issue an ultimatum for the agency to raise its parcel and shipping prices before receiving a $ 10 billion loan guaranteed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Seeking to break this deadlock, a bipartisan coalition in the House is pressuring the Senate and the White House to approve emergency funding for the postal service before it runs out of cash in the coming months.

House Oversight and Reform Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.) and government operations subcommittee chair Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) Joined Rep. Peter King (RN.Y) .), a leading member of the Emergency Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. preparation, and Representative Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) to establish a Postal Preservation Caucus.

Thursday’s caucus sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urge Congress to expedite a request by the USPS Board of Governors for $ 50 billion in emergency funding – half credits, half funding for “ready to go” facility modernization projects. the shovel ”- and an additional $ 25 billion in Treasury Department borrowing authorization.

“The postal service is an indispensable part of America’s critical infrastructure, and its employees are on the front lines every day delivering information and packages to the American people,” wrote the caucus members. “We have to save him now. We urge you to work over the next few days to pass legislation that will give the Postal Service the help it needs to continue to function on behalf of the American people. “

Major reform of the USPS “everything for another day”

The creation of the Postal Preservation Caucus comes a few days after a bipartite majority of the New York state delegation urged House and Senate leaders to include postal service financial relief in the next round of coronavirus-related spending.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Connolly said several Republican senators were “receptive” to a version of the CARES law that would have granted cash relief to the Postal Service, but the White House insisted on changing that language to a loan of 10 billion dollars.

Read more: Congress News

Since then, Connolly has said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has tried to use the loan as a “Trojan horse” to have more say in the business operations of the Postal Service.

“He insists on conditionality that would roughly transfer management responsibilities and pricing decisions – which by law are made by the Postal Regulatory Commission, not the Secretary of the Treasury – if they are to have access to it.” this line of credit. From my point of view, this is not a start, ”he said.

Mnuchin, at a White House press conference last week, said the Treasury “will include certain criteria for a postal reform program as part of the loan.”

However, King said Congress should instead focus on the immediate challenge of keeping the Postal Service from running out of cash before fiscal year ends.

“People have agendas, they want to radically change the post, that’s it for another day. You can’t do this in the middle of a pandemic, using this as an excuse to essentially destroy the post office or weaken it so much that it has changed to the point of being unrecognizable. Right now, they are in this crisis because of the pandemic, ”he said.

As for what might change in future rounds of negotiations with the Senate and the White House, King said support for emergency postal funding may come down to mobilizing public support for the agency.

“I don’t expect it to be easy, I don’t expect Mitch McConnell to change his mind about what he wants to do, but you can put them in a position where they have to come to terms with it. . For me, this is part of a tough negotiation and we have to fight to get it done, ”King said.

Connolly said public awareness of the Postal Service’s dire financial situation has increased dramatically since the passage of the CARES Act.

“Over the past three weeks in my office, considering everything we are dealing with, we have received thousands of communications every week. Believe it or not, number one for the past three weeks has been mailed. People, when they hear that the post could be in danger, they are very agitated and outraged about it, ”said Conolly.

“Viral tweets,” he added, raised awareness on the subject.

Supporting Postal Service tweets over the past month have come from such a wide range of voices as an actor Ryan Reynolds, Senator Tom Carper (D-Dél.) and the Wendy’s fast food chain

Le service postal reste l’agence fédérale la plus populaire dans l’opinion publique. Dans un Centre de recherche Pew sondage de plus de 1 000 adultes le mois dernier, plus de 91% des personnes interrogées ont déclaré avoir une opinion favorable de l’USPS – une note supérieure à celle des Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ou du Census Bureau.

Dans un récent sondage de plus de 800 électeurs inscrits, 92 % des personnes interrogées dans un Hart Research Associates et North Star Opinion Research a soutenu les crédits du Congrès pour le service postal lors de la prochaine série de dépenses d’urgence en cas de pandémie. Cette étude a été commandée par l’Association nationale des facteurs.

Pendant ce temps, plus de 49% des personnes interrogées dans un sondage mené par une société d’analyse de données YouGov au nom de l’American Postal Workers Union ont déclaré qu’ils seraient moins susceptibles de voter pour un sénateur ou un représentant sortant qui ne vote pas pour un financement d’urgence de l’USPS.

Aller là où les entreprises privées ne veulent pas

Connolly a déclaré qu’il s’attend à un soutien bipartite pour empêcher le service postal de manquer d’argent, en particulier de la part des membres qui représentent les districts ruraux.

« Si je suis un membre républicain du Congrès d’une région rurale de l’Amérique, je comprends que s’il y a une réduction du service postal, cela affectera d’abord ma région. Nous sommes les plus éloignés, nous sommes les plus chers et nous sommes [at] risk. So I think there has to be a bipartisan effort, I think there will be, ”he said.

Maloney said the USPS, with its universal service obligation to deliver mail to every address in the country six days a week, has a delivery network that no private entity would replace.

“If you’re the only person in a county, you’re going to get your mail. And even if there are only 30 people in the county, you are going to get your mail. It wouldn’t be there in a privatized system, ”she said.

Read more: News from agency monitoring

By the president’s own admission, the postal service delivers mail and parcels to areas of the country where private senders do not do business. However, he argued in a press conference this month that the agency is not charging companies enough money for what the industry calls “last mile delivery”.

“These big, wonderful modern companies, they walk into our old post office with all these roads that could never be built; you could never build them. They go into areas that you could never do, and they say, “Here. Deliver this. ‘ And they’re losing a lot of money per package, ”Trump said.

By law, the Postal Service must demonstrate that its package business at least covers its costs, and the Postal Regulatory Commission reviews service agreements negotiated between the USPS and businesses to ensure that the agency receives a rate. fair.

Declining Mail Volume Revenue May Not Recover

While the postal service has seen steady growth in its parcel and shipping business in recent years, packages are only about 30% of the agency’s total turnover.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service during the pandemic has seen revenue drop at least 30% from last year and expects $ 13 billion in revenue loss by the end of the year. exercise.

Postmaster General Megan Brennan recently warned members of the House Oversight Reform Committee that “the sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable source of revenue, is abrupt and may never fully recover.”

Over the next ten years, the Postal Service estimates losses from the coronavirus to reach $ 54 billion.

However, the postal service’s financial difficulties began long before the drop in revenues due to the pandemic. The agency ended the last 13 years with net financial losses.

A 2006 mandate to pre-fund postal retiree health benefits accounts for a significant portion of its losses. the Government Accountability Office estimates The USPS has defaulted on more than $ 48 billion in payments to this fund, which will be cash-strapped by 2030.

The House passed a bill in February that would repeal that pre-funding mandate, the White House Postal Task Force recommended keeping that mandate in place.

However, the GAO finds that the USPS ‘total unfunded liabilities and debt – about $ 143 billion in 2018 – have increased to double the agency’s annual revenues.

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