The United States Postal Service hasn’t been on solid financial ground for some time. So the last thing the organization needed was a pandemic that placed even greater stress on its services.
While the increased use of e-commerce during the current COVID-19 outbreak has led to a greater reliance on post offices to deliver medicine and other supplies, it hasn’t been enough to stem the organization’s financial bleeding.
The USPS has a complicated financial support system. While it is a government agency, it doesn’t run on taxpayer funding. This means it falls under government supervision, but is basically responsible for its own revenues and costs.
One of its most prominent obstacles is a piece of 2006 legislation that required the USPS to pre-fund 75 years of employee pensions in advance. According to a report from Business Insider, the organization is facing more than $11 billion in debt.
An overall decline in postal use recently led House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Representative Gerry Conolly, who runs the subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, to state that the USPS could run out of operational funds by June if Congress fails to act. The duo is calling for $25 million in emergency funds.
This lack of incoming revenues is compounded by conflicting reports about access to protective gloves and masks for the USPS’s fleet of 75,000 postal carriers and nearly 500,000 other employees that handle over 300 million pieces of mail every day.
As of this recording, the USPS has seen 259 of their workers already test positive for COVID-19, along with two deaths.
In addition to everyday concerns associated with mail delivery, a lack of funding for the USPS could impact the growing number of voters using absentee and vote-by-mail ballots for the upcoming presidential election.
The recent stimulus package signed into law by President Trump offers some possible solutions, in the form of $400 million in election assistance grants for states. However, some projections have that need requiring five times that amount.
The stimulus bill also offered the USPS the ability to borrow up to $10 billion from the federal government — funds that it currently has no way of repaying.