Coronavirus Could Finally Kill the U.S. Postal Service

Without a bailout from the government, the USPS could run out of cash as early as this summer.
May 10, 2020, 1:20pm

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Third-generation letter carrier Tamara Twinn has been with the United States Postal Service for 14 years, delivering mail and checks and medicine to hundreds of people every day. And she can’t imagine America without this essential service.

Besides the coronavirus hitting its huge workforce — over 2,000 postal workers have tested positive and at least 40 have died — there’s an even bigger, existential crisis: Without a bailout from the government, the USPS could run out of cash as early this summer. The service has said it needs roughly $75 billion to survive.

“I think it wouldn't look like America,” Twinn said of a future without the post office. “Ceasing to exist is just kind of unfathomable.”

The agency’s current struggles are a combination of plummeting mail volume from the pandemic and years of mounting debt.

In 2006, a lame-duck GOP Congress passed a law requiring it to quote “pre-fund” health benefits for retirees decades out into the future — something no other federal agency has to do. USPS was suddenly on the hook for billions each year it couldn’t afford. Meanwhile, revenue plummeted as people’s mail habits radically shifted because of the internet.

Now President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are the latest politicians to take aim at the post office. Trump has called it “a joke” and threatened to withhold stimulus aid unless it raises its prices by “four or five times” — which would be cripplingly expensive for all those who rely on its affordability and accessibility, especially in rural areas.

But Trump’s still moving forward with a top appointment: On Wednesday, the White House confirmed Republican donor and Trump friend Louis Dejoy as the nation’s next Postmaster General, a move that left at least one postal union “deeply concerned.”

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