Postal Updates

Congress gives USPS $10 billion in aid

Dec 22, 2020, 3 PM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

The United States Postal Service finally has gotten some direct financial aid from Congress.

The $900 million COVID-19 relief bill that finally cleared both the House of Representatives and Senate Dec. 21 converted a $10 billion postal loan offered in a previous COVID-19 relief bill (the CARES Act) into an outright grant.

“These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to a summary of the legislation provided by the staff of Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

Connolly, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, had been a key proponent of securing direct funding for the Postal Service.

“The $10 billion in relief for the Postal Service is long overdue and much needed heading into the holidays,” said Connolly in a statement to Linn’s.

“Our work, however, is not done,” he added. “Congress must pass a comprehensive postal reform package that will help ensure the viability of the USPS into the future.”

Although President Donald Trump had been opposed to giving taxpayer funds to the Postal Service, he was said to be willing to sign the relief measure.

It cleared the Senate by a 92-6 vote and the House voted 359-53.

Debates in both chambers focused on the size of the 5,593-page relief measure, not on the funds going to the Postal Service.

The bill wipes out an agreement Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reached with Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for how the initial federal loan was to be handled. It makes clear that the funds are a direct grant to the Postal Service for its pandemic costs and will not have to be repaid.

It could be a precedent for a return to using taxpayer dollars to help the financially troubled Postal Service, a step that was supposed to end in 1971 when the U.S. Post Office Department was removed from the president’s cabinet and transformed into an independent federal agency that was supposed to live off revenues from stamp sales and other services.

Other than a small annual appropriation for mail for the blind and overseas voting, the USPS has had little direct taxpayer funding.

The relief bill also contained language extending sales of the Save Vanishing Species semipostal stamp that was first issued in 2011 (Scott B4). This stamp has raised more than $6.1 million in funds for protections for endangered animals, according to the USPS website.

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