By Eamonn Burke
The coronavirus has ravaged the United States in the past six months, hitting small private businesses, especially minority -owned, very hard. There is also a major public service that has taken a devastating hit from the pandemic, and now from debates over mail-in voting.
A comprehensive detailing of the damages done to the Postal Service by the New York Times, including a daunting warning that the agency could run out of funds by the fall. The decision of whether to aid the service financially became a partisan one, in which the differing opinions on government interference came into play.
“The Postal Service is a joke,” said President Trump, who’s administration called off a potential $13 billion relief bill for the USPS and believes that the agency is responsible for its own financial issues, unless they comply with a series of alterations that would benefit private competitors.
Democrats were backed by large corporations that benefit from the USPS in their fight to save it. “We are for the public having the Postal Service meet the public interest, not some special interest” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
It may not be as divisive an issue as it seems, however. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pointed out that the benefit on both sides of the aisle from the USPS would indicate that the fight to save it may not be so evenly split between the two parties.
Delays in mailing have been experienced throughout the country since the pandemic broke, in cities like Philadelphia. Mail workers in the city say that the new pressures to cut spending, staff, and work hours are causing backlogs of mail. These can be a huge problem when the mail contains essential items like food or medicine. “I try to stay by him and pray for life that I have what I need to take care of him,” says Valerie Rice of her young grandson whom she orders medicine for. Meanwhile, a USPS spokesman assures that the agency is “flexing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic” and that they “appreciate the patience of our customers.”
The public has started to act, helping to fund the service indirectly through purchases of stamps and other USPS goods from the UPS gift shop. Hashtags like #SaveUPS and #DontDefundUPS have gone around Twitter.
The latest development surrounding the USPS is the controversy over mail-in voting, which Trump has sworn will rig the outcome of the election in November, even though evidence has proven this claim wrong. The new guidelines imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are opposed by the union as they slow down mail and have been criticized as a way for Trump to impair mail-in voting.
As a public service that cannot conserve funds by decreasing production, the agency is in a tough spot and faces an uncertain future.