Reprinted from the Des Moines Register May 5.
We never imagined having to write an editorial defending the existence of the U.S. Postal Service. Then again, we never imagined an American president would refer to the federal agency as “a joke.”
But here we are.
The novel coronavirus has further strained the postal service’s finances. Mail volume is down by nearly a third compared to the same time last year.
“The Postal Service relies on the sale of postal products and services to fund our operations, and these sales are plummeting as a result of the pandemic,” Postmaster General Megan Brennan told members of Congress during an April telebriefing. “The sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable revenue stream, is steep and may never fully recover.”
The U.S. Postal Service will “run out of cash this fiscal year” without financial assistance, she warned.
Congress must rescue the postal service, which will require billions of public dollars. The legislation should pass with enough votes to override a veto from President Donald Trump. His apparent ignorance about the importance of the postal service is as painful as his ignorance about the danger of ingesting disinfectant. Members of Congress must work around him.
Mail delivery is an essential service, especially in a rural state like Iowa — and a lifeline for people during a pandemic. The arrival of packages, letters, magazines, prescription drugs and newspapers is especially critical for older Iowans who are sheltering in place because they are at greatest risk of complications and death from the virus. Private companies don’t deliver to every household.
So the Des Moines Register editorial board asked Sen. Chuck Grassley his thoughts on this issue.
His response: “Congress has passed several bills totaling nearly $3 trillion for coronavirus response and recovery. If Congress considers another package, the health of the postal service will likely be a part of the discussion. As a general matter, reforms should accompany any infusion of taxpayer dollars.”
We followed up to ask if the senior senator and longtime rural champion personally supports providing aid to the postal service and what exact reforms he wants. We agree that structural reforms are needed to shore up the agency’s finances.
His response: “Those questions would have to be part of the congressional discussion.”
Perhaps Grassley could lead that congressional discussion and use his influence to immediately move forward legislation to shore up the postal service.
Iowans are facing unprecedented uncertainty. Some are afraid. Some are alone. Some do not have internet and email.
What these Iowans know for certain: Six days a week a federal employee is going to rumble up in a white truck to deliver mail. And pick up outgoing mail. And wave as they pass by. And call for help if they see someone in distress. Even in a pandemic, when contact with the public can place their health at risk.
The past few weeks postal workers have delivered absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters in Iowa. Those of us who want to vote remotely in the June primary election will rely on postal workers to pick up those request forms, deliver us ballots and ultimately get the completed ballots to county auditors. Many of us will need these workers again leading up to the general election in November.
Americans are experiencing more than enough disruption and anxiety right now. The last thing we need is our daily mail not showing up.
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