By: Sen. Susan M. Collins
The United States Postal Service and its employees are an invaluable part of American society, our economy, and our history. Since it was established in 1775, the Postal Service has brought communities together, kept families and friends in touch, and moved our economy forward. I know how important it is for Mainers to have reliable and convenient access to this essential service.
The Postal Service is also the linchpin of a $1.6 trillion mailing industry that employs more than seven million Americans in diverse fields, including paper manufacturing, publishing, printing, catalog companies, on-line retailers, and much more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant declines in first class and marketing mail volume. In addition, USPS has incurred unanticipated costs to protect its workers and the public from COVID-19. Without swift action, the Postal Service warns it could run out of money before the end of the year. This jeopardizes its ability to continue to serve the American public, as well as support the agency’s 630,000 dedicated employees, including 3,300 here in Maine.
Many postal employees are at risk during the pandemic, as they sort mail or make their daily rounds. It is estimated that more than 2,000 have tested positive for the virus, and more than 60 have died. Even before this public health crisis, the Postal Service was vital to our health care system, delivering 1.2 billion prescriptions each year, along with millions of lab tests and medical supply shipments.
I am committed to ensuring this vital institution survives this crisis and is positioned to support economic recovery.
That is why, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, I have led a bipartisan group of 10 Senators in calling on Senate leadership to include emergency funding for the Postal Service in any future coronavirus relief legislation.
Emergency funding, additional borrowing authority, and debt forgiveness are necessary to help shore up the Postal Service’s finances and prevent the agency from collapsing due to declining mail volumes and new costs associated with the pandemic.
Postal Service employees continue to go to work each day, facing increased risk as they continue to serve. It is critical that the next relief package also include adequate funding to ensure supplies of personal protective equipment, reimbursement for sick and family medical leave related to the coronavirus, and hazard pay for certain front-line postal workers who face exposure to the virus simply through doing their jobs.
The Postal Service plays a critical role in American society, and its essential services are needed now more than ever, especially in our rural communities where local access to grocery stores, pharmacies, and other vital services may be limited or nonexistent.
Without immediate relief, the Postal Service may have to limit or even cease operations, which would cause significant harm to Americans who rely on the Postal Service for delivery of medicines, distribution of safety-net benefits, and many other critical services. Congress must act to help ensure this vital institution survives this crisis.