The U.S. Postal Service is on the brink of collapsing during the coronavirus pandemic, according to some members of Congress and Postmaster-General Megan Brennan, but President Donald Trump has rejected calls to help the agency, which employs over 600,000 workers. A senior Trump Administration official and a congressional official told The Washington Post Trump threatened to veto the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package if any of the money went directly to the USPS. Lawmakers initially put in a $13 billion grant, but the law only included a $10 billion loan.
"We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it," the Trump Administration official told the Post. "I don't know if we used the v-bomb but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that." Senators Gary Peters and Ron Johnson added a $10 billion Treasury Department loan instead to keep the USPS afloat at least through spring 2020.
Congress agreed to a $13 billion direct grant to the USPS, which would not have to be repaid. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was not in favor of the idea, warning the stimulus package would not get the support of the Administration. One committee aide told the Post Mnuchin warned, "You can have a loan or you can have nothing at all." The $10 billion loan did make it into the bill, even though Mnuchin was still not happy.
Lawmakers estimate the USPS will be "financially illiquid" by Sept. 30 without the loan, which Mnuchin still has to approve. The agency projected $2 billion losses each month during the coronavirus recession while postal workers have to deliver essentials other delivery companies are not. Unfortunately, their workers are at a high risk of contracting the coronavirus. USPS officials said almost 500 employees tested positive for the coronavirus and another 492 are presumptive positive patients. Over 6,000 are in self-quarantine and 19 have died.
On Thursday, Brennan asked lawmakers for another $50 billion. Half would offset lost revenue caused by a decrease in mail revenue another the other half for modernization projects. She also sought a $25 billion Treasury loan that could be used to pay part of its $14 billion in public debt. The coronavirus is "having a devastating effect on our business" when "America needs the Postal Service more than ever," Brennan told the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
House Democrats said the USPS needs more funding to survive past September without interrupting its business, while Republicans believe the loan in the Cares Act is enough. "I'm so frustrated at how difficult it has been for a long time to galvanize attention and action around an essential service," Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia told the Post. "And maybe the pandemic forces us all to refocus on this service and how essential it is and how we need to fix it while we can before it gets into critical condition."
Trump has argued that USPS should raise prices on Internet retailers like Amazon, although Lori Rectanus, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office, told the Post this would likely not make a sizeable dent in the USPS' debt. "They should raise, they have to raise the prices to these companies that walk in and drop thousands of packages on the floor of the post office and say, 'Deliver it,'" Trump said Wednesday. "And they make money, but the post office gets killed. Okay? So they ought to do that and we are looking into it and we've been pushing them now for over a year."