The United States Postal Service is not immune to COVID-19. Employees are still working with new and evolving protocols, while volumes are going down.
During this pandemic, the Postal Service provides vital needs to our country. Letters are still a viable means of communication, especially for our most vulnerable populations. They depend on the mail to receive checks and correspondence, some do not have email and direct deposit. Our government health agencies are using the mail to inform us about the latest news and regulations regarding this Pandemic.
Many of us rely on the Postal Service to deliver our prescription medications to the tune of 1.2 billion delivered in the last year alone, before the virus. This includes almost all of VA prescriptions.
Right now, more than ever, we are relying on the Postal Service to deliver our mail-order packages because we either can’t or don’t want to go to the stores ourselves. Many stores and businesses are surviving because of the Postal Service. In Alaska, there are many communities that rely on the Postal Service to deliver food and other supplies. Bypass mail delivers groceries to so many of our bush communities providing them the vital link they need to survive. Elections rely on a vibrant Postal Service. Candidates have a chance to communicate with voters. I also assume there will be a lot more voting by mail this year, as in absentee ballots. We may have to go full on to voting by mail but that is a discussion for another day.
The United States Postal Service currently receives no federal funding from taxpayers. Let me repeat, the United States Postal Service receives no tax dollars.
Over the last 15 or so years there has been a lot of talk about the Postal Service losing money. Almost all of those losses can be attributed to the Postal Service being the only federal agency that is mandated to pre-fund health care benefits for their employees for 75 years in advance. The cost of this mandate is $1-2 billion every year. To put this in perspective the Postal Service is paying for health care benefits for future employees who have not even been born yet. I know this seems hard to believe, but it is easy to verify with a simple internet search.
The last stimulus bill provided the airline industry with $50 billion of relief, while the same bill gave the Postal Service a loan of $10 billion. I know the airline industry is hurting right now, and they may need the $50 billion, but the Postal Service is hurting as well.
At this time, I think most of us are more worried about being able to receive our medicine, checks and goods we can only receive online through the mail, then trying to plan our next vacation. I don’t know when most of us will be able to get on an airplane again. I do know that I personally rely on the mail.
There are currently about 630,000 Postal Service employees. If we were to lose the Postal Service, the impact of all the job loss alone would hurt the economy not to mention all the other businesses that rely on the Postal Service, from the mom and pop stores that receive inventory through the mail to the behemoths like Amazon. This would be truly devastating.
There is a bill in the House asking for $25 billion for the Postal Service, while the Postal Service itself is asking for $50 billion. I don’t know what the true cost will be, but we need to save our Postal Service.
I would like to urge you all to contact Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young. Tell them to include the United States Postal Service in any new stimulus bill.
• Mick Lowry is a Past President of the Alaska State Postal Workers Union and a Juneau resident.