Senator Says Postal Service is a Lifeline for Communities During COVID-19, Workers Must be Fairly Compensated with Hazard Pay and Provided Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/08/20]— As Congress works to craft the next bipartisan coronavirus (COVID-19) package, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is fighting to secure emergency relief for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help bridge budget gaps, continue nationwide service, and provide hazard pay and personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers.

In a letter to Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Smith said that the USPS has become a lifeline for all communities during the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting small businesses, connecting loved ones, and delivering critical items such as prescriptions.

But due to the economic impact of COVID-19, USPS estimates that overall mail volume could decline by over 50 percent by mid-summer, compared to the same period last year, leaving USPS in an unstable financial condition and imperiling its ability to continue to provide the crucial mail services that Minnesotans rely onFurther, additional funds are needed to provide protective equipment and hazard pay to USPS employees who are facing heightened risk of coronavirus exposure as they keep the nation’s mail system running. 

"Now, more than ever, Minnesotans are relying on the USPS to deliver life-saving medication, protective equipment, and necessary household goods," said Sen. Smith. "During this unprecedented public health and economic crisis, we must ensure that the Postal Service can continue serving all areas, no matter how remote, with consistent and reliable service." 

You can read the letter here or below:

May 8, 2020

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer,

As Congress works to craft another bipartisan stimulus package, I ask you to consider the urgent need to provide relief to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and its workers. Now, more than ever, Minnesotans are relying on the USPS to deliver life-saving medication, protective equipment, and necessary household goods. During this unprecedented public health and economic crisis, we must ensure that the Postal Service can continue serving all areas, no matter how remote, with consistent and reliable service. 

The Postal Service has a mandate to provide universal mail service to every American household, and has become a lifeline for all communities—especially in rural areas—as state and local governments impose “stay-at-home” orders and travel restrictions. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, rural areas disproportionately used USPS delivery to receive prescriptions and to pay bills where broadband service is unavailable. USPS also plays a crucial role in delivering mail-in ballots to remote areas so that residents—often elderly—can exercise their right to vote. Without emergency relief from Congress, it will be increasingly difficult for USPS to maintain this “last mile” mail delivery and keep rural post offices open and functioning as important community centers. 

In addition to delivering Personal Protective Equipment, Social Security and tax refund checks, prescriptions, and public health guidance, the USPS has also benefitted small businesses as they struggle to survive after closing brick and mortar storefronts. Many businesses are relying on e-commerce to generate revenue and in certain areas of the country, USPS is the only carrier. However, despite the continued delivery of essential goods and an increase in online shopping, USPS estimates that overall mail volume could decline by over 50 percent by midsummer, compared to the same period last year.1 This overall decline is driven by businesses cutting back on bulk mail and advertisements, which is the USPS’ main source of revenue.2 Congress must provide robust emergency funding so the USPS can bridge budget gaps and continue to provide nationwide service. Households across the nation cannot afford to lose this vital connection to businesses and loved ones. 

While most Minnesotans are rightly following social distancing guidelines to avoid further spread of the coronavirus, the employees of the USPS have no choice but to continue their essential work. The over 600,000 employees3 of the Postal Service are putting their lives at risk to deliver mail to every zip code in the country, and they must be fairly compensated with hazard pay and provided appropriate Personal Protective Equipment. Veterans and African American employees make up eighteen and twenty seven percent of the USPS workforce, respectively. Failing to properly compensate and protect these workers will have unfair and disparate impacts on these communities, and we cannot let that happen. Essential workers, in any sector of the economy, should have the protections they need if we expect them to continue working on the frontlines of this crisis.

Thank you for your work on these important issues and your attention to the needs of the USPS and its employees. 

Sincerely,

 

_____________________________

1 Nicholas Fandos and Jim Tankersley, “Coronavirus Is Threatening One of Government’s Steadiest Services: The Mail,” New York Times, April 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/us/politics/coronavirus-is-threateningone-of-governments-steadiest-services-the-mail.html.

2 Catherine Kim, “If the US Postal Service fails, rural America will suffer the most,” Vox, April 16, 2020, https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/4/16/21219067/us-postal-service-shutting-down-rural-america-nativecommunities.

https://about.usps.com/newsroom/statements/usps-statement-on-coronavirus.htm