USPS Employees Forced to Continue Work Despite Shortage of Cash, Protection Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The U.S. Postal Service was in financial trouble even before the coronvirus pandemic, and it has only grown worse in recent days. Some employees are concerned they are not receiving the same protections others are, especially compared to the millions of Americans who can work from home. USPS workers are reporting they do not have hand sanitizer, gloves or masks to protect them and some are even looking to community donations for help.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia who is responsible for overseeing the USPS as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's subcommittee on government operations, told CNN some USPS workers told him they are not getting the protection they need at work. "I had a conference call two or three days ago," Connolly said. "I heard loud and clear concerns they had for their exposure."

"They cannot telework. They have to deliver the mail and sort the mail. They have to put the mail in mailboxes either at the post office or at people's homes and businesses," he continued. "They are complaining that in the workplace itself they are given no protective gear to help minimize the risk that has them very concerned."

Earlier this week, Connolly and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, called on other lawmarks to support the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, which included $25 billion in emergency appropriation to the USPS. They said the agency might not survive the summer because of a dramatic decrease in mail volume due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House," Connolly and Maloney wrote. "Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America's help, and we must answer this call."

Unfortunately, the CARES Act stimulus package President Donald Trump signed on Friday fell far short of helping the USPS as much as the representatives hoped. The bill only included $10 billion in loans, which have to be approved by the Treasury Department. While the USPS was thankful for the help, they fear it was too little too late.

"The Postal Service remains concerned that this measure will be insufficient to enable the Postal Service to withstand the significant downturn in our business that could directly result from the pandemic," USPS spokesman David Partenheimer told CNN. "Under a worst case scenario, such downturn could result in the Postal Service having insufficient liquidity to continue operations."

While the push for more funding continues in Washington, the USPS workers responsible for sorting and delivering the mail are more immediately concerned with safety. The National Association of Letter Carriers, one of the unions for postal workers, wrote its members fielded almost 3,000 reports of problems around the country, and hand sanitizers are being distributed this week. The American Postal Workers Union said it was worried about the lack of "distribution of personal protective equipment and sanitizers."

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On March 22, the USPS did issue a statement on the guidelines it has put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency is following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health departments.

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