by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
Last week, the Washington Post reported the White House rejected a bail out proposal for the United States Post Office, which is suffering mightily due to the coronavirus pandemic.
To quote the article:
“Trump threatened to veto the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, if the legislation contained any money directed to bail out the postal agency, according to a senior Trump administration official and a congressional official who, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity.”
“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” the Trump administration official said. “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.” Instead, Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) added a last-minute $10 billion Treasury Department loan to the Cares Act to keep the agency on firmer ground through the spring of 2020, according to a Democratic committee aide.
The Postal Service projects it will lose $2 billion each month through the coronavirus recession while postal workers maintain the nationwide service of delivering essential mail and parcels, such as prescriptions, food and household necessities.
That work often comes at great personal risk. Nearly 500 postal workers have tested positive for the coronavirus and 462 others are presumptive positives, USPS leaders told lawmakers. Nineteen have died; more than 6,000 are in self-quarantine because of exposure.
Even the $10 billion loan will likely not be enough, according to Forbes. Postmaster General Megan Brennan told lawmakers on Thursday that the agency may run out of cash by September thanks to a $13 billion loss in revenue this year.
This crisis threatens the jobs of around 600,000 workers, a large percentage of who are people of color. It also threatens access to voting by mail, census counting by mail, and rural deliveries.
In the past few days, political leaders, journalists, celebrities and concerned citizens have been rallying behind hashtags such as #SaveThePostOffice, #SaveUSPS and #SaveTheUSPS to amplify the issue and publicize ways individuals and communities can help prevent the nation’s Postal Service from destruction:
Our postal service is on the verge of collapse. I’m calling on Congress to act swiftly to shore up USPS so that everyone can continue to receive essential medicines and supplies, and as many Americans as possible can vote from home. #SaveThePostOffice https://t.co/w844TL5ZWc
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 10, 2020
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren says she plans to call on Congress to save USPS.
Sherilyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and sister to the late journalist and broadcaster Gwen Ifill (who was honored with a Black Heritage Stamp earlier this year), encourages citizens to call on Congress and the White House to #SaveTheUSPS:
Let’s move America. #SaveTheUSPS Call both your Senators and the White House.
Call your Senators 202-224-3121
Call the WH 202-456-1414 https://t.co/LEimLJbOr2
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) April 12, 2020
“AM Joy” host Joy Reid tweeted more suggestions for citizens to support the Postal Service:
Here are 2 things you can do to make a positive difference this week:
1. Request to vote absentee in your state (in many states you can do it online or print out the request and send it in)
2. BUY STAMPS-Even just to collect the coolest ones. Let’s all support the Postal Service!
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 12, 2020
Additionally, scores of concerned citizens such as Tina L. Kris are doing their part to take action and spread the word:
Sign the petition Text USPS to 50408 #SaveUSPS #USPS #USPostalService pic.twitter.com/A8rA4WwG6z
— Kris Tina L.⭐ (@Kris__TinaL) April 12, 2020
New York Times writer Nicole Hannah Jones offers a thread of tweets worth clicking through to read about how USPS workers are disproportionately black and brown, and how devastating it would be to communities to lose post office jobs, benefits and pensions:
A story I’v long wanted to write is that the particular hatred for the @USPS, one of our great American institutions & services, an institution mandated by the Constitution, is because its workforce is disproportionately black. I regret not getting it done https://t.co/LW3DYoqv4F
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) April 12, 2020
Actor and activist Danny Glover, whose parents both worked for the Post Office, weighed in on the need to protect USPS last July, and offered ideas such as postal banking to help low-income Americans and help the Post Office generate sustaining revenue:
We must protect the US postal service! Read my opinion piece on why maintaining these good jobs are critical for black and middle class families! https://t.co/pVJOslC2BS
— Danny Glover (@mrdannyglover) July 11, 2019
In his excellent opinion piece in USA Today he wrote:
Today, the Postal Service remains a critical source of good jobs for African Americans. Black employees make up 28.6% of the postal workforce — more than double their share of the U.S. population.
In 2018, average Postal Service wages were $51,540 a year, just slightly below the average for all U.S. workers. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, wages were substantially lower in the nine other occupations in which blacks make up at least 25% of employees. For example, home health aides, 26.1% of whom are black, averaged just $25,330 per year. Barbershop employees, 30.8% of whom are black, earned $33,220.
Instead of more cuts, policymakers should do away with the onerous pre-funding mandate and explore new profit sources, such as postal banking. One government report found that expanding services such as check cashing, bill payment and electronic money orders could generate as much as $1.1 billion in annual revenue after five years — all while dramatically expanding financial services for low-income Americans.
To learn more on the history of black postal workers, check out “Defend the Post Office, Defend Black Workers” in Jacobinmag.com.