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One area of contention that has emerged on Capitol Hill amid the coronavirus pandemic is how to handle the ailing U.S. postal service – which lawmakers have warned could be forced out of business as soon as September.
The disagreement is not new but has been exacerbated as stresses on the agency have heightened throughout the pandemic.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office on Thursday noted that the financial viability of the postal service has worsened due to a decline in fist-class mail volume and mounting costs associated with employee compensation and benefits.
As previously reported by FOX Business, as a result of the coronavirus crisis mail volume – the postal service’s primary source of revenue – has plummeted by more than 30 percent when compared with the same period last year. Coronavirus-related losses could amount to $54 billion over the course of the coming decade.
The postal service has not been profitable for more than a decade; it incurred net losses of $78 billion from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2019.
How to address those headwinds is a challenge.
Billions of dollars in aid for the agency hang in limbo. While Congress has authorized the Treasury Department to loan the Postal Service $10 billion, President Trump has said he would block the funding and would not authorize Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to approve it either, unless reforms were made within the agency.
To that end, lawmakers wrote a letter to Mnuchin on Wednesday asking him not to tie conditions to the $10 billion that the agency needs in order to keep serving 160 million American households, hoping to prevent the postal service from becoming what they appear to perceive as a victim of Trump’s animus toward Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“These threats appear to be thinly-veiled attempts to retaliate against what he sees as a vocal critic of his presidency, the Washington Post, and its owner Jeff Bezos,” the letter read. “We are concerned about President Trump’s history of invoking another of Bezos’ assets, Amazon, in conjunction with calls to increase prices charged by the USPS, strongly suggesting personal and political motivations on this matter. It would be highly inappropriate and unacceptable for the Department of Treasury to act on such motivations when considering the USPS loan or other USPS relief.”
The senators also urged the administration not to use the coronavirus crisis to push through privatization efforts.
Trump has harshly criticized the postal service over pricing. He says it needs to charge internet companies like Amazon at much as five times the rates it is currently charging to ship its packages.
Meanwhile, a new postmaster general was appointed Thursday to head the agency: Republican donor and businessman Louis DeJoy.
In response to that news, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was her “understanding” that DeJoy was appointed by the agency’s board, whose members were appointed by the president – indicating the new leader may follow his line of thinking.
There is bipartisan support to save the ailing Postal Service in the near term. New York Republican Rep. Peter King has worked with Democrats to put together a postal preservation caucus.