If the USPS doesn’t receive at least $89 billion in emergency funding from Congress, it could run out of money and fail by September.
The United States Postal Service is in danger of shutting down.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the USPS, causing a 30% decrease in mail volume, and if the agency doesn’t receive at least $89 billion in emergency funding from Congress, it could run out of money and fail by September. Democrats have pushed to provide that funding in the next coronavirus relief bill, but President Donald Trump and Republicans have balked at the idea. Trump has even said he would refuse to sign a bill that includes funding for the postal service.
The USPS, which has suffered from financial struggles for years, plays a critical role in American society. If the agency doesn’t get funding and fails, the impact would be widespread and catastrophic, with rural, heavily Republican areas suffering a disproportionate amount of harm.
Why? Because the USPS is a unique public entity. The postal service is legally required to deliver all mail to all postal addresses in every region of the country at a flat rate, regardless of distance. The service’s reach and affordability make it essential in rural communities, which have high rates of people living in poverty and with disabilities, and may not be able to access or afford the more expensive private options, such as UPS and FedEx.
These companies move millions of packages a year, but UPS, FedEx, and other companies like them don’t deliver to remote, rural areas because it’s not profitable to do so. Instead, these carriers frequently rely on the USPS for “last-mile delivery,” in which the postal service delivers mail for them from major transportation centers to the final destination.
As Vox reported on Thursday, without the postal service, these companies would not have the resources to deliver to many rural and small-town communities, which would force residents of those areas to either live without the ability to send and receive mail, or travel to larger towns to send and receive parcels.
It’s not just rural Americans who would be affected though. Millions of urban and suburban Americans across the nation would suffer the consequences of a country without the postal service.
Here is a snapshot of who else would be hurt by a USPS failure this year:
- The more than 31 million Americans who rely on the USPS to vote by mail in elections
- Workers who still rely on the Postal Service to receive their paychecks
- Americans who receive their tax refunds and pension checks through the mail
- The tens of millions of Americans who will receive their $1,200 coronavirus relief checks through the mail. Some checks are expected to take until August to arrive.
- The millions of newly unemployed Americans who will, in many cases, receive their unemployment benefits through the mail.
- The millions of adults who take medication and get their prescriptions by mail. Twenty percent of adults over 40 who take pills for a chronic condition get their medication by mail order, according to a survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association. If the USPS shuts down, they will be left without an accessible and affordable option to access their medication.
- Hospitals and medical providers that rely on the agency for medical supplies and equipment
- The 18% of Americans who still pay their bills by mail
- Indigeneous people living on tribal lands who rely on the agency to keep them connected to the world
- Millions of brick-and-mortar and online businesses that rely on USPS to ship their products
- Hard-to-reach and rural communities without internet that rely on USPS to submit their census forms and other critical documents.
- The postal service’s 630,000 employees
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board called on Congress to save the Postal Service. Democrats want to, but only time will tell if Republicans step up and work with Democrats to save the institution the LA Times called “America’s lifeline.”
If they don’t, millions of Americans will endure the consequences.