Coronavirus relief package omits financial assistance for Postal Service
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
The day after Congress sent its $2 trillion coronavirus COVID-19 relief package to the White House, Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., charged that President Donald Trump had blocked the United States Postal Service from directly sharing in the funds that lawmakers were granting to many federal agencies.
Connolly, who had argued for postal support, told the Washington, D.C., television station WSUA9 in a March 28 interview that “Trump personally objected to any assistance to the Postal Service.”
He said the relief measure initially had $25 billion for the USPS, funds Connolly said were urgently needed because of the agency’s prolonged financial crisis and because mail volume had plunged sharply after the coronavirus struck the country.
“The Postal Service is going to run out of all cash by June,” he told the station. Connolly is chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations that oversees the USPS, .
The lawmaker didn’t say what prompted the president’s objection or whether Trump might block any additional efforts for postal relief in a second coronavirus relief measure that Congress seems certain to enact.
In a March 24 statement on the House floor, Connolly seemed to be signaling a second try for USPS relief.
The initial bill was not perfect, he said, adding that “our work is not done.”
“The Postal Service, which every American relies on for prescription drugs, care packages and critical services, is in crisis and must be addressed,” he said.
The measure that Trump signed does give the Postal Service authorization for $10 billion more in borrowing from the Department of the Treasury, but it does not provide any of the direct financial relief that postal supporters were seeking.
In a March 28 statement, the USPS expressed appreciation for the increased borrowing authority.
“However, the Postal Service remains concerned that the measure will be insufficient to enable the Postal Service to withstand the significant downturn in our business that could result in the Postal Service having insufficient liquidity to continue operations,” the USPS said.
The statement said that the crisis has “led to a rapid drop in mail volume and a significant loss in needed revenues, which puts our ongoing ability to provide our vital federal service at risk.”
“We will continue to work with policymakers in the months ahead to ensure that Americans have access to mail during this critical time in our nation’s history,” the statement concluded.
From almost the beginning of his presidency, Trump has been upset with the Postal Service.
He was angry over the discounted postal rates that the agency had granted Amazon, the giant online retailer and a major mailer.
The president claimed the rates were too low and hurt Amazon’s retail competitors.
The agency defended those rates, saying they were fair and fully reviewed by regulators.
The Washington Post reported Oct. 16, 2019, that Trump had said to his aides that he wanted Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan fired, a power that he did not have.
Speaking in Washington April 1, Robert M. Duncan, chairman of the Postal Service’s board of governors, signaled that the agency remains hopeful that Congress will act favorably on its requests for financial aid.
He acknowledged during a board meeting that the coronavirus has caused a “steep and precarious” decline in mail volumes and said that it “is putting the Postal Service into a liquidity crisis.”
The increased borrowing authority Congress gave the USPS was “a good start” but not enough for the agency’s long-term health, Duncan said.
“We need a new business model,” he said.
The board held a moment of silence for postal workers who have been killed by the coronavirus.
Postmaster General Megan Brennan said the agency was continuing to process mail and noted that there is little chance that the coronavirus could be spread via contact with mail items.
No national disruption of mail service is likely, she said, adding that localized problems could affect some communities.
“We will get through this and the Postal Service will lead the way,” she said.
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