By Hannah Packman, NFU Communications Director
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been experiencing financial issues for many years, but dwindling mail volume during the pandemic has made matters worse, severely cutting into the agency’s revenue. Unlike most other government agencies, which are funded by taxpayer money, USPS funds itself with revenue from postage and postal service. Though the U.S. Treasury has made a $10 billion loan available to the agency, it may still run out of money within the next year or so.
Even before the pandemic, then-Postmaster General Megan Brennan was lookingfor government support, ways to cut costs, and new revenue streams. But current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has aggressively ramped up those efforts, with significant implications for the speed of mail delivery. Under his leadership, mail sorting machines have been dismantled, public mailboxes have been removed, and overtime for postal workers was eliminated. These provisions have so significantly delayed mail service that USPS warned 46 states and the District of Columbia that it may not be able to deliver ballots for the upcoming presidential election on time. Many Americans have already experienced damaging disruptions; for instance, some are waiting on lifesaving medications, while farmers have received packages of dead chicks.
These changes were met with widespread outrage – so much so that DeJoy backpedaled and announced he would suspend all cost cutting measures until after the election. Though the reversal is a relief, it is unclear how much it will help. DeJoy is not necessarily undoing any damage that has already been done, which means that mail sorting machines and mailboxes may not be replaced. Additionally, there are reports across the country that removals have continued even after his announcement. If that weren’t enough, some rural voters have been told that USPS employees can no longer serve as witnesses for absentee ballots, which are required in Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Rhode Island.
That aside, if DeJoy continues to dismantle USPS after the election, farmers and rural communities – who disproportionately depend on the agency – would suffer. In an op-ed, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew outlines why USPS is so critical to rural communities and what we must do to save it — read it here.
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