At this very moment, U.S. Postal Service carriers are delivering masks and respirators to the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. They are moving test kits to labs and prescription medication to seniors. Mail carriers are handing off safe ballots for upcoming elections in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other states. Postal workers are ferrying millions of notices and questionnaires for the 2020 census count, an urgent yet thankless task assigned to the Postal Service. And as soon as the president gets around to attaching his John Hancock to print stimulus checks, the Postal Service will deliver tens of millions of those, too.
In the nation’s pandemic response, USPS workers are essential. This isn’t their first rodeo — Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin used his then-nascent office to support communications between American revolutionaries in 1775. But the pandemic is taking a toll on their ranks. Nearly 500 have tested positive for Covid-19, with hundreds more presumed infected; 19 workers at USPS have died.
Yet it’s at this very moment that some longtime Postal Service foes have decided to sharpen their knives. With mail volume down to a third of its level for the same time last year, USPS is projecting a $13 billion shortfall in revenue. Insolvency could strike the agency as soon as September. Democrats in Congress have pledged billions to help with the bottom line, but a recalcitrant Trump administration has threatened to veto any coronavirus spending package that includes grants for the beleaguered mail system.
The battle over the Postal Service has reached a critical stage. Now, others are stepping forward with suggestions for saving the agency that would utterly transform it, from privatizing the USPS to nationalizing Amazon.