The U.S. Postal Service warned Congress this week that it will completely "run out of cash" in the next several months without immediate action from the White House and Congress, but—with as many as 630,000 jobs at risk—President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers have refused to commit to rescuing the prized government institution as it falters amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Postmaster General Megan Brennan told the House Oversight and Reform Committee in a briefing on Thursday that the USPS will need access to a total of $75 billion in cash, grants, and loans in order to avert financial ruin by the fall.
"Our Postal Service is on the verge of collapse. I'm calling on Congress to act swiftly to shore up USPS so that everyone can continue to receive essential medicines and supplies, and as many Americans as possible can vote from home."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren"We are at a critical juncture in the life of the Postal Service. At a time when America needs the Postal Service more than ever, the reason we are so needed is having a devastating effect on our business," said Brennan, referring to the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to a sharp decline in mail volume.
As Government Executive reported, "House Democrats pushed for a $25 billion cash infusion for the Postal Service as part of the last stimulus package, but Senate negotiators ultimately opted to include only a $10 billion line of credit. Postal management has said that amount would be insufficient for preventing fiscal calamity this year."
President Donald Trump has thus far rejected the Postal Service's requests. During a press briefing earlier this week, Trump urged USPS to simply "raise the prices by, actually a lot."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of the most vocal critics of the Trump administration's refusal to assist USPS, said in a statement Thursday that "we cannot allow the Postal Service to collapse."
"To do so would deepen our nation's economic crisis and eliminate an important lifeline for individuals who rely on the Postal Service's 1 billion deliveries of lifesaving prescription deliveries and eviscerate the very infrastructure we need to administer the upcoming elections," said Connolly.
In a tweet Thursday, Connolly accused Trump of personally intervening to block the approval of any emergency funding for the Postal Service.
According to new reporting from the Washington Post on Saturday, Connolly's accusation was correct. "Trump threatened to veto the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act if the legislation contained any money directed to bail out the postal agency, according to a senior Trump administration official and congressional official," the Post reported.
I spoke with the Postmaster General again today. She could not have been more clear:
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The Postal Service will collapse without urgent intervention, and it will happen soon.
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) April 9, 2020
The New York Times reported Thursday that a bailout for the Postal Service "has already emerged as a political sticking point" in talks over another large coronavirus stimulus package, "with Democrats pressing to deliver one and President Trump, a persistent critic of the agency, opposed."
"Some lawmakers, postal union representatives, and others who rely on the service now fear that the Trump administration is trying to use the current crisis to achieve conservatives' longstanding goal of nudging the mail service toward privatization," the Times noted, "either by setting highly prescriptive loan terms or by essentially forcing it into bankruptcy. That would aid commercial competitors like FedEx and UPS."
Progressives argue that a major culprit behind the Postal Service's financial woes is a 2006 law that requires USPS to prefund its retirees' health benefits through the year 2056. As Sarah Anderson and Brian Wakamo of the Institute for Policy Studies wrote last year, "this extraordinary mandate, which applies to no other federal agency or private corporation, created a financial 'crisis' that has been used to justify harmful service cuts and even calls for postal privatization."
In a tweet Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged Congress to take immediate action to provide relief to USPS as the Trump White House refuses to budge.
"Our Postal Service is on the verge of collapse," said Warren. "I'm calling on Congress to act swiftly to shore up USPS so that everyone can continue to receive essential medicines and supplies, and as many Americans as possible can vote from home."