The United States Post Office was on its last leg going into the pandemic, but it may come out of the pandemic without a leg to stand on.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant decline in Americans using the Postal Service, which operates as a semi-independent government agency and not on taxpayer funding, is worsening a crisis for the already financially troubled service. Last week, Postmaster General Megan Brennan said financial woes exacerbated by the pandemic could cause the agency to run out of money by October.
The agency was already in debt, brought on heavily by 2006 legislation that required the agency to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of employee pensions. Then the service lost 8.8 billion in 2019, and currently has $11 billion in outstanding debt.
As the $2.3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package was being developed, there appeared to be bi-partisan support to help make the post office whole, but instead the stimulus plan included only a $10 billion loan for the service.
“To give it $10 billion of additional credit is, frankly, a meaningless gesture. It’s a slap in the face, and it’s not what they need,” said Carolyn Maloney, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman. “They don’t need more debt capacity, they need debt forgiveness.”
“Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House,” said Maloney and her co-chair Rep. Gerry Conolly in a March 23 joint statement.
According to The Washington Post, President Trump, who has been vocally hostile to the idea of expanding vote by mail, actively opposed any measures to help the Post Office and refused to sign the CARES Act stimulus package if it included a bailout for the agency.
The Post reported that while Congress initially intended on giving the Postal Service a $13 billion grant, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stepped up in to quash the grant, telling lawmakers, “You can have a loan, or you can have nothing at all.”