The United States (US)Postal Service is requesting access to US$75 billion through a combination of cash, grants and loans to avoid a liquidity crisis this fall, the agency told Congress on Thursday.
Postmaster-General Megan Brennan told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that USPS would lose US$13 billion in fiscal 2020 due to the economic downturn resulting from the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the agency would “run out of cash” before Sept. 30. The agency’s board of governors, whose five Senate-confirmed members were all appointed by President Trump, is asking Congress for a US$25 billion cash injection to offset expected losses, a US$25 billion grant to fund “shovel ready” projects to modernize USPS and $25 billion in unrestricted borrowing authority.
All told, the already cash-strapped Postal Service anticipates losing US$54 billion over the next 10 years as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
House Democrats pushed for a US$25 billion cash infusion for the Postal Service as part of the last stimulus package, but Senate negotiators ultimately opted to include only a US$10 billion line of credit. Postal management has said that amount would be insufficient for preventing fiscal calamity this year. Lawmakers have already resumed their push for the funds in a forthcoming stimulus bill, though Trump has rejected the proposal and said the agency should simply raise its prices instead.
“I want to commend the brave men and women of the Postal Service for all they are doing in the midst of this pandemic,” said Maloney, the oversight committee’s chairwoman, after receiving a briefing from Brennan on Thursday. “The Postal Service is holding on for dear life, and unless Congress and the White House provide meaningful relief in the next stimulus bill, the Postal Service could cease to exist.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said congressional inaction would put the jobs of the Postal Service’s 630,000 employees at risk.
“We cannot allow the Postal Service to collapse,” Connolly said. “To do so would deepen our nation’s economic crisis and eliminate an important lifeline to the 1 billion individuals who receive lifesaving prescription deliveries and eviscerate the very infrastructure we need to administer the upcoming elections.”
Brennan noted the paradox in which USPS now finds itself.
“We are at a critical juncture in the life of the Postal Service,” Brennan said. “At a time when America needs the Postal Service more than ever, the reason we are so needed is having a devastating effect on our business.”
The postmaster general added mail volume may never fully recover from its current decline.
“As Congress and the Administration take steps to support businesses and industries around the country,” she said, “it is imperative that they also take action to shore up the finances of the Postal Service, and enable us to continue to fulfill our indispensable role during the pandemic.”
In addition to its financial struggles, USPS has faced concerns among its workers for their own safety. Employees at some postal locations have reported insufficient equipment and supplies to fight off the spread of the coronavirus, and hundreds of employees have contracted COVID-19, the disease that results from the virus.