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With the election nearing and many parts of the U.S. in the grips of COVID-19, mail-in ballots have become a prominent issue. But President Trump has disparaged both the U.S. Postal Service and the integrity of voting by mail. What effect could his criticism have? William Brangham talks to Mark Dimondstein of the American Postal Workers Union and then Spencer Cox, lieutenant governor of Utah.
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Gary Peters (D-MI), today introduced the Protect Our Services Today (POST) Act which mandates that the U.S. Postal Services cannot close any post office facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Senator Manchin asked Postmaster General DeJoy for clarification on reported post office closures across West Virginia and received assurances there would be no closures at this time. However, USPS did inform Senator Manchin that an ongoing review was underway which could significantly reduce facility operations throughout the Appalachian District. Specifically, USPS confirmed that 12 post offices were identified for feasibility studies for potential closures, and another 24 locations were proposed for reduced hours. Despite Senator Manchin’s explicit request for this information, USPS not disclose what locations were impacted, why they were selected, or when a decision might be made, leaving the door open for potential closures in the future.
“Post offices across the United States provide essential services to Americans and serve as hubs for our rural communities. In the Mountain State, they run rural mail routes serving West Virginians who are unable to drive long distances to retrieve their mail, including many of our Veterans who receive their medications in the mail, and support small businesses in the Mountain State who depend on these services to survive. It is unconscionable to consider interrupting these vital services during an ongoing pandemic, especially as millions of Americans, including many West Virginians, will rely heavily on mail in ballots to cast their vote in the upcoming presidential election,” Senator Manchin said. “That is why I introduced the Protect Our Services Today (POST) Act to ensure no post offices are closed in the middle of this crisis. We must ensure everyone has access to crucial postal services, no matter where they live in America. I will advocate for this language to be included in future COVID-19 relief packages and hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in supporting this commonsense legislation.”
“The Postal Service is the only carrier that delivers to every address in the country, and it’s especially important for our rural communities who often don’t have any other options to stay connected or receive critical supplies,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “As the Postal Service continues to make unacceptable changes that limit its effectiveness, this commonsense bill will prevent the closure of rural post offices and help ensure that services won’t be compromised for rural residents.”
Background information on the POST Act can be found here.
Bill text can be found here.
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) asked the U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy for clarification on the reported closure of post offices and reduction in hours at additional post offices across West Virginia.
The Senator said in part, “I am receiving troubling reports from West Virginians that there are numerous post office locations in my state and across the nation that are scheduled for imminent closure or significant reduction in hours and services. Yesterday, there were signs hung in some of these locations announcing their proposed closure with an effective date of August 22nd or August 24th. This would likely be a violation of both federal law and United States Postal Service (USPS) rules that prescribe a specific closure process which requires, at minimum, 120 days’ notice. In response to this letter, I request a list of all the specific changes affecting mail delivery you have directed since assuming the role of Postmaster General, including a detailed list of any and all individual post office locations that are being considered for closure. In the event that there are specific locations being considered for closure, please also provide an explanation for why and a rough timeline for when those closures might take place.”
To view Senator Manchin’s letter to Postmaster General DeJoy, please click here.
Dear Postmaster General DeJoy:
I am receiving troubling reports from West Virginians that there are numerous post office locations in my state and across the nation that are scheduled for imminent closure or significant reduction in hours and services. Yesterday, there were signs hung in some of these locations announcing their proposed closure with an effective date of August 22nd or August 24th. This would likely be a violation of both federal law and United States Postal Service (USPS) rules that prescribe a specific closure process which requires, at minimum, 120 days’ notice. In response to this letter, I request a list of all the specific changes affecting mail delivery you have directed since assuming the role of Postmaster General, including a detailed list of any and all individual post office locations that are being considered for closure. In the event that there are specific locations being considered for closure, please also provide an explanation for why and a rough timeline for when those closures might take place.
Let me be clear, I have not, do not, and will not support any measures to privatize USPS. As a public service, USPS is legally required to deliver mail, to all postal addresses in all regions, at a flat rate, no matter how far it may have to travel. The Service’s affordability and continued accessibility are essential for rural communities, especially those with high rates of poverty. In many areas where reliable broadband is not an option, the Postal Service is their only link to medicine, social security checks, and family members. Nearly 18 percent of Americans pay their bills by mail. Among adults over 40 who take medication for a chronic condition, 20 percent get those pills by mail order. Under new social distancing mandates, the Postal Service has become even more essential in keeping rural communities connected and economically viable, allowing rural consumers the ability to get groceries, medical supplies, and other essential goods delivered to their doorstep.
In March, a few months before you assumed the role of Postmaster General, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) which included Section 6001 expanding USPS’s authority to borrow an additional $10 billion from the Federal Financing Bank (FFB) within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The goal of this funding, as with many provisions in the CARES Act, was to help USPS navigate the immediate, unforeseen, and unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic without gutting the essential services on which Americans have come to depend. Unfortunately, not only has little to none of that funding been utilized, you are now proposing the very cuts that we sought to avoid with that emergency line of credit.
As a former businessman, I respect and appreciate your desire to make government work more effectively and efficiently, but the USPS is not just another business. It’s a part of and a reflection of the communities all across America that it serves day after day.
The men and women of USPS provide a public service that is too critical to too many to be changed unilaterally without the input of those that will be most affected. I agree that USPS faces some difficult challenges, but they can only be fixed in an open, transparent, and bipartisan fashion.
I remain committed to supporting the ongoing operations of USPS, and I look forward to your prompt response to this letter.
Our movement is growing. Together we can save the Post Office and convince lawmakers to do their jobs!
Multiple bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate that would provide $25 billion in COVID-19 related relief for the Postal Service. But the clock is ticking and we mustn't run out of time.
The Senate will return from recess soon. We need to push even harder to get them to vote to end this crisis. We are planning to put in 10,000 calls to Congress on July 23.
Will you join us on this critical call-in day of action??