The United States Postal Service (USPS) plays a vital role in our country. Millions of Americans rely on USPS to deliver important mail like Social Security checks and bills. As Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I certainly understand how important USPS is to veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs mails between six and seven million prescriptions to veterans every month, 90 percent of which go through USPS. I am thankful for the men and women of the USPS who are dedicated to delivering our mail through rain or shine.
Because the Postal Service is so important, it is key that we ensure it runs as effectively and efficiently as possible. The new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, has taken steps to do just that. Unfortunately, opponents of these actions have spread misinformation, and some even suggest that the Postmaster General is trying to sabotage the Postal Service. This is simply false. Let’s take a look at the facts.
First, let’s consider the Postmaster General himself. Mr. DeJoy has endured criticism for not being a career USPS employee, as well as for his political affiliation. A closer examination reveals someone like Mr. DeJoy – who has a long career in the private sector specializing in supply chain logistics – is exactly the type of leader the USPS could use right now. He is the 5th Postmaster General since the early 1970s to come from the private sector, and he was selected unanimously by the USPS Board of Governors.
The Postal Service has received criticism recently for removing mail sorting machines and retiring mailboxes. The truth is that these actions are part of a years-long efforts to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. With the rise of the internet, e-mail, other online messaging apps, physical mail has declined sharply in recent years.
Overall mail volume has declined from a peak of 213 billion pieces of delivered mail in 2006 to 143 billion in 2019, about a one-third drop in volume. First class mail volume has declined every year since 2001. This decline, coupled with soaring overtime costs, resulted in losses of $69 billion between 2007 and 2018. For years, USPS has been taking steps to reduce costs. Under the Obama administration alone, USPS removed 12,000 mailboxes. Yet no one accused the Postmaster General of sabotage then.
Critics of the Postmaster General also baselessly suggest he is taking these actions to affect the upcoming 2020 election by preventing vote-by-mail initiatives. A simple look at the numbers debunks this theory. In 2019, USPS handled an average of 471 million pieces of mail each day. We have about 158 million registered voters in America, so if every registered voter sent in their ballot by mail, it would not equal even half of the mail volume that USPS handles on a typical day. While Tennessee requires most individuals to vote in person, those who vote absentee by mail should rest assured that USPS is more than capable of handling the volume.
Earlier this month, USPS announced it is suspending operational changes until after the 2020 election. While these planned changes would have no impact on its ability to handle election mail, USPS took these steps to remove even the slightest appearance of election impact. I am disappointed that USPS had to take these steps in response to baseless conspiracy theories.
This past Saturday, I returned to Washington to vote against an ill-considered bill which its supporters cast as an attempt to “save the Postal Service.” This bill provides $25 billion to USPS and prohibits operational changes until the coronavirus public health emergency has ended. The truth is the Postal Service needs flexibility to respond to the unique challenges it faces.
This bill would lock the Postal Service into a failing business model to operate exactly as it was prior to the coronavirus outbreak. This makes no sense. Additionally, Congress already provided $10 billion in emergency funding for USPS in the CARES Act, which I supported. USPS has not yet touched any of that CARES Act funding, and USPS projects that it already has sufficient funding to remain solvent through at least August 2021.
Congress should be working to ensure that USPS can implement changes it actually needs, not “saving” it from baseless conspiracy theories. The Postal Service offers a valuable service to our country, and I have no doubt that they will be able to effectively respond to the challenges of the coronavirus crisis and handle the volume of mail in the upcoming 2020 election.