House leaders introduce appropriation to help US Postal Service 

Tonda Rush

May 27, 2020

The leaders of two Congressional oversight bodies today dropped in a $25 billion appropriation bill to help the U.S. Postal Service stave off financial disaster.  Reps Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee; and Gerald Connolly, D-Virginia, chair of the Government Operations Subcommittee, said they believed the coronavirus is “wreaking havoc on the U.S. Postal Service.”

USPS this week reported that its mail volumes were off 27% during April, the first full month when government-imposed shutdowns were felt in postal operations. Although its package delivery business saw a 35% increase, the net impact for USPS is still negative because packages are significantly more costly to deliver. Also, USPS has had to hire extra workers to fill in at postal hotspots where workers have come into contact with the COVID-19 infection.

The bill, HR 7015, is styled the Postal Preservation Act. It designates the additional funds to make up for lost revenue and adds $15 million for the Office of the Inspector General to oversee the expenditures. USPS is ordered to make protective gear, sanitizers and cleaning supplies available to help the workforce avoid the virus.

Maloney and Connolly expressed alarm at USPS’ condition, which had been precarious even before the pandemic struck.

“Can you imagine our nation actually allowing the Postal Service to shut its doors?” the representatives said in their introductory statement.  “We can’t let that happen. This is a national emergency that we must address.”

Funding for USPS was included in the House’s HEROES stimulus bill, which passed before Memorial Day recess. But that bill has not yet been taken up by the Senate and prospects for its passage are dim.  Although many Republicans have expressed concern about the fate of USPS, the GOP leadership has been reluctant to support appropriations for USPS after President Trump labeled the Service “a joke.”  Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, head of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, reported recently that his staff is keeping continuous tabs on USPS finances to see whether financial support is needed.

NNA President Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget, said NNA has long supported additional federal revenues for USPS because universal service is too important to small towns and rural areas to allow interrupted service.

“We understand that great pressure is being applied to the federal treasury right now and we appreciate our leaders’ attention to the need for wise spending. But USPS was in trouble before the coronavirus disaster and is in worse shape now.  Our concern that is if Congress waits until the last dollar is in the postal coffers, a rescue will come too late. Particularly right now as the nation struggles to get back to its feet, reliable and affordable mail delivery is the backbone of commerce in towns served by our newspapers. We applaud Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Connolly for aggressively moving toward action.”

NNA represents approximately 1,800 community newspapers, primarily locally-owned publications in small towns across America.  It has members in all 50 states.