The pandemic laid bare many of the problems facing the U.S. Postal Service. As more people relied on the mail to get everything from medications to consumer goods, the USPS fell further behind, and already slower delivery times sometimes became even more snail-paced.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy didn’t help matters. Critics alleged his so-called budget-cutting moves were, in fact, an attempt by the Trump administration to slow delivery in an attempt to aid the former president’s re-election chances.
But while the USPS problems were more apparent, they have long festered in the agency.
Now reform bills that actually have bipartisan support in this divided Congress face a good chance of being passed. It can’t happen soon enough.
The USPS has hemorrhaged money for years, losing $87 billion over the past 14 years. It faces an expected loss of nearly $10 billion this year.
A big driver of financial losses is due to a 2006 law that requires the USPS to pre-fund its retiree health-care system. The reform bill would do away with that and integrate the retiree health-care system with Medicare. That alone would save an estimated $40 billion during the next decade.
But the USPS needs a variety of changes to make it healthy and bring it into the digital age. That includes services such as allowing the Postal Service to offer affordable check-cashing, which would help underserved areas and bring in revenue. Removing the Prohibition-era ban on mail delivery of alcohol is another proposal.
Those kinds of ideas wouldn’t automatically be authorized under the Postal Service Reform Act, but it would allow the agency to experiment with new business models.
It’s clear that raising the price of stamps and trimming expenses at the USPS are not answers. Re-imagining what the agency does while maintaining the premise that it must serve every address in the nation, six days a week, is what will make the USPS healthy again.
There’s good reason saving as the Postal Service has support in both parties. Americans of every political stripe rely on and admire the agency and don’t want to see it go away or be privatized.
The reform legislation is certainly not everything the USPS needs to be successful, but it is a good step in the right direction.