HEROES Act includes help for U.S. Postal Service
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
Democrats in the House of Representatives were willing to give the United States Postal Service $25 billion in financial relief, but whether their wishes can become law is another question.
The Democrats delivered on their postal promise May 15 and passed the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act, a relief package that, among many other things, would allow the financially troubled federal agency to avoid what some lawmakers called a likely collapse this summer.
The measure cleared the House May 15 by a vote of 208-199, with only one Republican, Rep. Peter T. King of New York, voting for it.
Both the Republican-controlled Senate and President Donald Trump, who has been opposed to giving the USPS more money, are unlikely to go along with the massive spending package.
In a contentious debate that lasted almost four hours, House Republicans ridiculed the measures as “Nancy Pelosi’s wish list.”
They complained that House Speaker Pelosi, D-Calif., had drafted the 1,800-page HEROES Act without any Republican help.
Democrats said the legislation will set the stage for the next round with the Senate over future coronavirus COVID-19 relief measures.
Little was said during the House debate about the Postal Service’s financial woes.
Lawmakers focused on other issues, such as direct aid to unemployed workers displaced by the coronavirus and the depleted resources of state and local governments.
The $25 billion the bill offered was far less than the Postal Service’s board of governors had requested.
The agency’s four governors, all Trump appointees, sought a package that included the $25 billion emergency funding, plus another $25 billion for shovel-ready modernization projects and $25 billion in borrowing authority from the federal treasury.
Postal officials have said that the coronavirus has caused the agency’s financial problems to accelerate, as mail volume and revenues have plummeted sharply.
A May 8 financial filing by the USPS suggested that the agency’s financial woes are not as dire as some Democrats have been saying.
The report said the agency “expects that it will have sufficient liquidity to continue operations through at least May 2021.”
That appears to contradict what Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a recent campaign fundraising letter.
“I’ll be blunt: without help from Congress and the White House, USPS will not survive the summer,” Maloney said in the letter.
Maloney’s committee said in a news release that the $25 billion should be enough for USPS “to avoid entering into bankruptcy and shuttering operations at a time when American lives depend on it every single day.”
The Democratic measure would also give $15 million to the Postal Service’s inspector general to check on how the Postal Service spends the $25 billion and loosen some terms on a previously approved $10 billion in postal loans.
“This will keep the Postal Service afloat,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations that oversees the USPS.
“But let me be absolutely clear,” Connolly added, “if President Trump and the Senate GOP demands anything less than the Heroes Act provides, the Postal Service will continue to sink.”
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